On October 17th, 2005, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced a mandatory dress code, and everyone knew the primary target was Allen Iverson. One of the most popular NBA players, AI stayed true to himself and continued to rock his hip-hop style. A style Stern was concerned would bother (white) fans. We know that was the case because the NBA’s own magazine airbrushed Iverson’s tattoo when they put him on the cover in ’99/’00.
If this doesn’t convince you, here’s another fact. The dress code didn’t only define expected outfits by saying that “players must dress in business or conservative attire.” It listed all clothing items not allowed. See if this rings any bells – jerseys, jeans, hats, do-rags, T-shirts, large jewelry, sneakers, and timber boots (specifically, Timberland-type boots). Don’t see cowboy boots here, do you?
The players found a way to express their rebellion, and it was on the court. They started wearing longer shorts. David Stern came down hard and started dishing out $10.000 fines per player and $50.000 to teams for each infraction. The rules stated that a player’s shorts could not extend below 0.1 inch above the knee. Being the trendsetter that he is, Allen Iverson wasn’t the only player who violated this rule. In addition to AI, John Salmons, Kyle Korver, and Kevin Ollie were all fined $10.000, and the 76ers had to pay $200.000 – 50k per player.
“We think they’re being too puritanical about the whole issue. The fines and their whole attitude appear insidious and draconian.”Billy Hunter (NBPA director), ESPN
The Players’ Union filed a grievance stating they are only wearing the league’s official partner Reebok’s attire. Teams supported the claim and said there was no warning that the NBA would suddenly measure shorts like a British boarding school. Stern did not care. Once that man made up his mind, he used all the power the league bylaws allowed him, which are vast.
Years later, AI said he felt the rules were racist and unfair but kept a sense of humor about it. Seeing what players like Russell Westbrook and James Harden are wearing to games, Iverson said, “They need the dress code now!”