The Sportstorialist: The Yeses, Nos, and Boy-Oh-Boys of the 2014 NBA Draft
It’s possible that Andrew Wiggins had noticed the assortment of roses and carnations sprouting on the men’s lapels and thought, How classy. Maybe he reasonably believed that, if worn with a tie bar and a pocket square and a vest, the knit, metallic, or plastic flower was overkill, that it was a flourish too far. Or — and this is also reasonable — what if it wasn’t enough? What if it was too mild or too blatantly gentle, too “Look, girl: I have feelings, too?” Why stop at one stupid flower? What is this, The Bachelorette? You might as well wear a whole damn bush!
For anyone who didn’t know much about Andrew Wiggins before Thursday evening’s NBA draft but happened to be standing near a television when Commissioner Adam Silver, in his maiden draft, announced Wiggins as the first pick, seeing him stand up, dispense hugs, then make his way to the stage must have aroused some wonder. Who’s that guy? And why is he wearing the whole damn bush?
Let’s face it. Spontaneity left the NBA draft years ago. Most of the men are no longer dressing for youth or fun or style or themselves. They’re dressing for their pastors, their mothers, their sponsors and stylists. Andrew Wiggins was dressing for everything and everybody. He wore a black tuxedo jacket, by Waraire Boswell, printed with big, white, floppy flowers. This could have been overkill, but he stopped at the jacket. His black pants were cut slim and tapered and stopped above his ankles. He wore loafers, a brief, swooshing side part in his hair, and a black bow tie.
It’s early summer. But this getup was late spring. It was stoner Marimekko. It was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It was a 19-year-old saying, “Thanks, but I already went to my prom.” He probably didn’t need the copper, floral pin stuck into one of the solid black lapels. But it was all about Wiggins dressing freely. The draft was held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and when it was over, the 6-foot-8 Canadian could easily have walked right down Flatbush Avenue to the overcrowded Caribbean place Sugarcane for something too blue and too syrupy in a glass that’s too tall. No one would’ve said a thing. Of course, he’s headed to the Cavaliers. Where in Cleveland these clothes go is unclear. But he’ll find someplace.
He looked fresh, and, mercifully, he wasn’t alone. Elfrid Payton went tenth, but he was dressed a close second. Payton has a lot of interesting body art and a block of dreadlocking hair that never looks the same way twice. The block is going to Orlando, where it’ll easily become the best hair in the league. On Thursday, he wore a midnight-blue double-breasted suit that was tailored tight. He wore the same butterscotch brown shoes as a lot of draftees. Payton’s did the most for the suit. In one sense, as much as you’d have no idea what he’d do in those clothes, you also knew exactly what he did: looked cool.
It’s true that, toward the end of the first round, there was the expected parade of bland businesswear. Tyler Ennis, the 18th pick and another Canadian, offered a brief disruption in a good double-breasted slate gray suit. But what you sensed from this year’s class was that the stylists weren’t running the entire show. Their hand seemed less visible. Blue was a more dominant color than it has been recently, and good tailoring, it seems, is here to stay. And yet you wonder where the guidance was with T.J. Warren — not that of a stylist, per se, just the second eye of a mother, a sister, a friend. He was selected fourteenth, and boy, oh boy. It wasn’t that both buttons on his anonymous gray suit were fastened. It wasn’t that the flap of his strange upper pocket wouldn’t stay flat. It was that it had been tailored so that the sleeves ran high enough to showcase the cuffs of his shirt. And how about that shirt! Red and white stripes with a black collar and matching black cuffs with at least three red buttons. You could hear the cymbals clashing. He was wearing two outfits, and one might have belonged to a vampire stripper.
It was wishful to assume the worst was over. How, really, could that shirt be topped? But right after T.J. Warren came Adreian Payne, and it’d be in very poor taste to go on about his gray-blue and pink plaid jacket and the pinkish pants and the white shirt with pink buttons and the bulging dark pink pocket square with blue trim and the pink-flower lapel pin and the huge white-and-dark-pink bow tie. It’d be in very poor taste because the imaginatively sewn lining of his jacket bore a tribute to Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year-old Michigan State fan who died in April after battling neuroblastoma. In the East Lansing area, they called Holsworth Princess Lacey, and the outfit was Payne’s way of honoring her. It was wholehearted on the one hand. It was a whole lot of look on the other.
Jabari Parker didn’t take any chances. He was the no. 2 pick and kept it simple: the same dark gray you always see, a knit flower on the lapel. This suit always needs to go to the cleaners and stay there. The draft is a special occasion and only technically the first day of work. Roll a new set of dice. That said, Parker gave it elegance. The fabric had a touch of sheen. When someone has as bright and confident-looking a face as Parker does, it’s hard to discount that as an accessory.
Joel Embiid, beset by a foot injury, spared himself the trouble of going to Brooklyn and was shown at home gingerly bouncing on a sofa when his name was called third. In a white shirt and black tie, he looked like a deacon on his lunch break. Aaron Gordon had the sort of mohawk that’s making the World Cup fun to watch. His hair curled with a classy part so small it’s possible the barber nicked him. Gordon went fourth, in an azure number that makes you hear the ice cream truck jingle.
You wanted to like whatever Marcus Smart was going for. It was in the same neighborhood as Wiggins, but it was trying too hard. He went sixth (to the Celtics), stood up and flashed us the lining of his jacket, which was printed, in ice-blue, with the Oklahoma State insignia and a tribute to his late brother, Todd Westbrook. His tuxedo jacket was deep blue; his clip-on tie matched the lining. He wore black pants with a couple of breaks, a great big watch, and glasses. He looked ready for both basketball and to take your daughter to a high school dance.
Julius Randle is going to the Lakers, where, with any luck, he’ll strongly be encouraged to consider tuxedos with less traffic and much smaller bow ties. The one he wore was so large it practically grinned. Nik Stauskas, Canadian no. 3, wore a head-to-toe windowpane suit and, before hitting the stage, did an elaborate handshake with his less tall father, Paul. You didn’t know whether he was the eighth pick or Land Rover’s salesman of the year.
Noah Vonleh wore a creamy white bow tie over a bright jacket with some fabric stuck in the top pocket. You know where Vonleh might have been coming from: White is tight. Maybe. Just not here. Not when the collar of your bluish-gray shirt is also white. Too much is happening. And when too much is happening, just bet on black.
Maybe it takes a couple of years to unlearn the dreary, prommy ways of drafts past, to understand that if you’re at Barclays, you’ve probably got the job, so relax. But at some point a creative seed was planted, and something bloomed: all over Andrew Wiggins’s jacket.
Filed Under: 2014 NBA Draft, NBA, Andrew Wiggins, Adam Silver, Elfrid Payton, Tyler Ennis, T.J. Warren, Adreian Payne, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, julius randle, Nik Stauskas, Noah Vonleh