If you ever thought to yourself, NBA All-Star Weekend is great, but we could always use more Kevin Hart, apparently you were not alone. TNT broadcasted the first ever NBA fashion show on Saturday night, officially titled NBA All-Star All-Style Presented by Samsung Galaxy and produced by LeBron James’s Springhill Productions. Seven NBA players were recruited to compete in a runway competition. The reward, other than pride, was a diamond bow tie. Yes, this is real.
The show was ostensibly hosted by Carrie Keagan (I didn’t know who that was either), but we quickly learned this was just another Hart vehicle. Executive producer LeBron greeted us at the top of the show, only to be interrupted by the diminutive comedian within the first minute. I genuinely enjoy the comedy of Kevin Hart, but at All-Star Weekend his ubiquity still feels like a constant interruption. What is he doing here and why is he everywhere? And yet, Hart actually turned out to be the stabilizing force throughout a baffling event.
The seven all-star contestants, as they were referred to throughout the show, were Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Jeff Teague, James Harden, J.R. Smith (not an All-Star), Chandler Parsons (not an All-Star), and Zach LaVine (not an All-Star but the slam dunk champion, so, fine). There were three rounds: dressing for the boardroom (Round 1), a night out (Round 2), and attire worn to the game (final round). The top four advanced to the second round, and it was one-on-one in the final.
Spoiler alert: Being a physically gifted athlete does not translate to being a swift runway model. Each contestant was responsible for bringing his own clothes and attendant stylist. Was it impossible for LeBron to call two other friends already involved in the weekend festivities and beg them to be a part of this before resorting to Parsons (always on call for modeling opportunities) and Smith (always on call for New York opportunities)? The questions are already overwhelming.
Was this whole event a nod to New York Fashion Week, which was occurring simultaneously across the city? Did TNT need to meet some obligation to Samsung? Is there a Hart quota the NBA needs to meet every year? Was there a concern that Smith had been absent from New York nightlife for too long? Other than Parsons, are any of these guys particularly interested in fashion? Most of these questions went unanswered, although Cousins made it pretty clear he wasn’t in it for the diamond bow tie. He wore cargo pants, though that wasn’t even the most appalling sartorial decision.
Smith wore a fur scarf in Round 1, but the august distinction of worst outfit went to LaVine. In Round 2, the players were asked to wear an outfit for going out to the club. Each guy was accompanied down the runway by a supermodel. LaVine, with Shanina Shaik on his arm, wore a Minnesota Twins jersey with his name and number (8) emblazoned on the back.
If you had any doubts about if they really brought their own clothes, hopefully they are all squashed now. No one would pay LaVine to look like a really tall tween. This outfit told me all I needed to know about his nightlife in Minnesota. He’s clearly not going out at all. He did not advance to the final round. I’m happy he won the dunk contest, because otherwise he’d merely be the idiot in a monogrammed baseball jersey.
Other questionable decisions were made by individuals who can’t blame ignorance or youth. I’m looking at you, Charles Barkley. He was one of five judges, including Kenny Smith, Elena Delle Donne, GQ’s Will Welch, and designer John Elliott. Smith and Barkley got to weigh in on every contestant while only one of the other three could speak each time. Cousins walked first, wearing an outfit Barkley apparently loved. He didn’t know, or just forgot, to keep his score secret until the entire score was revealed via — product integration! — a Samsung tablet. Barkley blurted out, “I’m gonna give him a nine.” Keagan, trying to maintain order, slapped him on the wrist. Of course, he replied with a Fifty Shades of Grey joke.
Fifty Shades became a running gag for the rest of the show, and I don’t think it even makes much sense. If Charles was suggesting that he and Carrie are Christian and Anastasia, where did that leave Kenny? It wasn’t one of Barkley’s better zingers, nor was it one of his most offensive. But deprived of much noteworthy content, this became a headliner.
The most mystifying aspect of the show, though, was that there was no connection to Fashion Week whatsoever. An NBA fashion show, produced in conjunction with actual style professionals, would have been a natural extension of the brand-building that already takes up so much of the players’ extracurricular time. Many of these All-Stars — Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, et al. — are dapper dudes making deliberate style choices. For example, Wade is going hard on knit turtlenecks right now. Hearing him explain his reasoning for dressing like Ron Burgundy would have been riveting television! Perhaps conflicting endorsement deals would make a proper fashion show tricky, but an event more closely resembling the exclusive shows at Lincoln Center could have pulled in talent more exciting than Wale and Flo Rida, who performed during the second and final rounds, respectively.
Ultimately it came down to non-All-Star vs. non-All-Star: J.R. vs. Parsons. Somehow J.R. beat out the one guy with modeling experience. This entire affair was like cotton candy. It sounded like a good idea at the beginning, but just a small taste was enough. Kevin Hart, I know we’ll be seeing you again, but I’m not sure this idea will be imported to Toronto in 2016.