For years, arena tunnels have served as a runway for basketball’s finest in fashion. From all-over-patterned fits on Russell Westbrook to LeBron James’ memorable wingtip boots pre-Game 1 of the 2018 Finals, the walk-in has served as an opportunity for athletes to deliver outrageous fits and for brands to showcase their best accessories on highly influential NBA stars.
But maybe no longer.
According to sources who spoke with ESPN, a new entry protocol could require players to be “in uniform and warm-ups when they arrive” to games. The rule was reportedly finalized at the end of last week — less than a month before the NBA season resumes in Orlando, Fla. on July 30.
The sources told ESPN that the change was made with the coronavirus pandemic in mind. Ensuring that players are already outfitted would prevent them from congregating in close quarters both before and after games. Plus, team locker rooms on site are not equipped with showers.
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Many athletes in the league, such as James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Kyle Kuzma, have used the tunnel walk to tout signature and designer labels or their endorsement deals with fashion brands. So far this year, rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder signed with Converse, while Puma added Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. and Kendrick Nunn to its roster.
Such limitations might give way to a new kind of fashion statement through face masks: Players could customize their personal protective equipment with brand logos and names or even write their own social justice messages. (Separately, about 285 of 350 NBA athletes have picked out a social justice message to put on the back of their jerseys, said National Basketball Players’ Association executive director Michele Roberts.)
According to ESPN’s sources, the league has already provided all players and team personnel with face masks ahead of tip-off in Orlando. Athletes have the option of wearing the NBA x Stance coverings or one of their own choosing.