Injuries, “inadvertent” bubble bursting, positive COVID test results: almost all of the early news coming out of the NBA bubble in Orlando has been hard to hear so far. The cherry on top? Players’ pregame outfit-revealing tunnel walks, the fashion show that has become so foundational to the league’s brand over the past couple of years, would be shelved, too, according to ESPN reporter Nick DePaula. A new policy required players to arrive for games ready to hoop, already in uniform and warmups. “Considering the unique environment on the NBA Disney campus and warmer weather conditions, a different policy was put in place for players’ arrival and entry into the arenas,” a league spokesperson said, according to ESPN.
“That is crazy,” Tucker told ESPN in reaction to the news. “I think that takes away [from] originally what getting dressed was all about. It wasn’t even about the tunnel walk, it was more about getting dressed up and going to work. To me, it’s like a mindset, getting dressed and getting ready to go to my game. It puts me in the mindset that I’m ready to work and helps me find my focus.”
The NBA without pregame fits is like Steph Curry without a three-pointer, or Kyrie Irving without his handles: it robs the game of a bit of its style, panache, magic. Player style is also a fan favorite: obsessively tracked by Instagram accounts like LeagueFits and outlets like GQ. (“not to be dramatic, but this is the worst day in leaguefits history,” the former wrote in the wake of the news yesterday.) For obvious reasons, this could not stand.
So it’s no surprise that as quickly as the news came, NBA fits were on the table again. On Monday afternoon, ESPN reported that it was initially “misinformed by a league spokesperson” about a final ruling on the dress code. Players actually will be allowed to wear…clothing from their own wardrobe to games, which would be an astounding sentence to read under any other circumstances. The bottom line: NBA pregame fits, briefly taken from us, are back.
Still, expect to see the players’ outfits change slightly to better fit Orlando and this peculiar tournament. The NBA already modified its dress code to allow more relaxed clothing like shorts. But even with more casual outfits, all the creativity fans of the NBA expect will still be on display, Kesha McLeod, a stylist who works with players like James Harden and P. J. Tucker, told GQ late last month. “Really fun shorts, some fun sneakers, and a T-shirt,” she said, outlining a potential outfit.
In talking to ESPN, Tucker correctly diagnosed the problem with keeping players from their tunnel outfits: “It just doesn’t feel NBA to me.” However, listening to its players, adapting to new circumstances, and clearing the runway for the biggest and most outrageous fits possible. Now that sounds like the NBA.