The NBA draft is like the prom, graduation, a sports banquet and a fashion show rolled into one spectacle. Unfortunately, the final part of that mix leaves plenty of room for error, as some players don’t understand that being 6’8” doesn’t mean your suit needs eight buttons. Over the years, the draft has become that embarrassing yearbook photo you pray no one ever sees. Unfortunately, because it’s televised, everyone sees. Twenty years ago, the Denver Nuggets selected Jalen Rose with the 13th pick, but no one remembers that he was the last pick in the lottery behind players who had inferior careers. What they remember is one of the most infamous draft suit debacles in league history.
The tragedy of Rose’s suit was startling considering that he (along with the rest of the Fab Five) was a fashion icon during the 1990s. They made kids across America trade in their Stockton-esque ball-huggers for a baggy, comfort-friendly alternative. They’re the reason that I, to this day, only play in black sneakers and socks. Their influence is solidified, as they brought an element of style to a national stage that was terrified of them, yet intrigued. Sadly, Rose brought none of that style with him on draft night. As Michigan’s point guard, he was their leader and trusted decision-maker. Why would he decide to wear that red, pinstriped disaster and look like a character from a Donald Goines novel on what was, at the time, the biggest day of his life? It’s simple: he’s a Detroit dude to the bone.
One of the things I learned during my freshman year of college (other than how to mimic every regional accent) is that guys from the Midwest fancy themselves as smooth. I know plenty from Detroit and Chicago who like to get fly, which, for them, occasionally means something out of the box. Like, R&B singer out of the box. They aren’t as eccentric as, say, New Yorkers or Californians, but they’ll definitely surprise you. The Motor City is a blue-collar one, but there’s still a bit of distinct flair in its citizens’ sartorial choices. It’s why Rose’s one-time friend and Michigan teammate Chris Webber can pull off that Kendrick Lamar fade (which he had first, many years ago) with such ease. Rose’s suit and tie (that fucking tie) screamed “I’m from Detroit,” but it was a big misstep; an exceptionally bad errant pass, even.
Former NBA commissioner David Stern may have hinted to veteran basketball writer Chris Sheridan that Rose wore the most horrendous suit in the history of the draft, but other players have donned ensembles which are arguably worse. Samaki Walker kept it extra rural, looking like he was headed to a megachurch where Drew Gooden was the preacher. If he wasn’t 6’10,” Tim Thomas could’ve passed for an extra in Janet Jackson’s “Alright” video. Chuck Person looked like he was either about to conduct the New York Philharmonic, or serve you really expensive oysters. Jalen Rose was my favorite Fab Five member and I enjoy him as an analyst, but I can’t let him off the hook for that Dick Tracy villain suit. Two decades later, people might forgive his sartorial ignorance, but they’ll never forget it.
You’ll never catch Julian Kimble in a suit that terrible. Like, ever. Follow him on Twitter @JRK316.