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2009, June 26: FoxSports.com – Creative draft-day fashion won’t come back

June 26, 2009

"Charles Barkley and Karl Malone looked like they'd never been to a big city before. Didn't Hakeem Olajuwon wear a tuxedo? Think about that. A tuxedo!" laughs Slam Magazine editor Lang Whitaker.

"More recently," Whitaker adds, "there was a stretch in the late '90s/early '00s where guys wore huge, boxy suits with shoulder pads fit for the NFL. Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson actually still dresses that way."

Ouch.

But those days are apparently long gone. No longer do players show up to the draft wearing the same suits they wore to their high school senior year awards banquet. Though Ricky Rubio may look like he is of Bar Mitzvah age, he dressed like a full-grown adult on Thursday night.

A very well coiffed, well-paid adult at that.

All of the draft picks Thursday night did. Los Angeles Clippers pick Blake Griffin was decked out in elite designer Waraire Boswell. Fellow top-15 picks Austin Daye, Hasheem Thabeet, and Tyler Hansbrough were all wearing the very trendy (and very pricy) Elevee.

Even Harden's bow tie, which was spectacular, did not provide the bloggers and armchair quarterbacks much comic relief. It was more GQ than Mad. On whether he tied the bow tie himself, Harden shared Thursday night, "I tried so many times. It just wasn't working. So I had my stylist come up and give me a lesson on how to do it."

Yep, 19-year-old James Harden — a kid who just days ago was living in an off-campus college apartment with his buddies — has a personal stylist up with him in New York this week.

Rest assured, Samaki Walker did not have the same situation in 1996.

Nor did Jalen Rose in '95. I asked Rose, now retired and currently working for ESPN, to wax nostalgic about his pre-draft wardrobe preparation 14 years ago, "Prior to the draft, I went to the mall and tried on a few looks until I came up with the one everyone has come to know and love. I picked out the red pinstriped suit for the draft and a lime green suit with matching gators for my post-draft party. Talk about flashy."

So, where'd all the tacky suits go?

Whitaker points to the Internet as the central reason for the gradual extinction of unique Draft Day get-ups.

"The Internet has become the great informer," he says. "It's pretty easy to find photos and galleries of all the worst suits in Draft Day history, and these days guys don't want to be remembered for dressing like Mr. Blackwell's nightmare."

Indeed, players are now more aware than ever that every public move they make will end up on a blog, someone's Facebook page, or a couch potato's Twitter feed. One bad decision, whether it be a keg stand photo at a frat party or wearing brown shoes with a black suit, can cost a player credibility and ultimately, millions in marketing dollars.

Liz Sowden, head of marketing for the classy high-end men's store Thomas Pink, says it's not just NBA draft picks looking their finest these days. It's all men, across the board.

"Today's man is placing a strong emphasis on his appearance and wardrobe," she says. "He recognizes that looking sharp exudes confidence and strength."

But what about Samaki?! Did a white suit and matching hat not exude confidence and strength?

"NBA Draft Day is the beginning of a highly anticipated career for these men," adds Sowden. "If they look exceptional on that night, the poise and fortitude they project will give the right impression about their attitude and capability. Conversely, a less-than-sharp appearance could give the impression that they've dropped the ball. In more than one sense."

Don't get me wrong. Joakim Noah wore some interesting duds in 2007, and Drew Gooden's 2002 no-button look was worthy of a good vomit session. But for the most part, those days are behind us.

Like the Knicks fans in attendance at the Garden, I walked away a bit disappointed Thursday night.

The evening officially marked the end of an era. Sure, there was a bow-tie, but it didn't spin in circles. There were no cheesy polka dots covering it. Hell, it looked fantastic.

I guess it's just time we face the music. The days of the exotic NBA draft suits are officially done.

Where have you gone, Samaki Walker?