Book Review: ‘Fly,’ by Mitchell S. Jackson

When I was growing up, there was a thing called “the ballplayer look.” It served two essential purposes: to show the world you were a hooper, and also that you were fly. It could be the way you rocked your socks and shorts, the sneaks you chose on the court, your haircut, the type of earring you wore. It all came down to a style that signaled basketball was your calling card.

Michael Jordan at the N.B.A. All Star Slam Dunk Competition at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, Ind., 1985.Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE, via Getty Images
LeBron James in February 2023, on the night he became the highest scorer in N.B.A. history.Tyler Ross/NBAE, via Getty Images

In FLY: The Big Book of Basketball Fashion (Artisan Books, 221 pp., $40), the author Mitchell S. Jackson goes to great lengths to capture the evolution and meaning of that aesthetic. From Bob Cousy’s Rat Pack-inspired suits in the ’50s and ’60s, to Michael Jordan’s on-court style that ran the ’90s and LeBron James’s “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt in 2014, to Jalen Green’s masterful Louis Vuitton/Damier combination during this year’s Paris Fashion Week, the book traces the sartorial eras that have come to define the N.B.A.

Dennis Rodman wears a custom wedding dress and makeup by Kevyn Aucoin at a book signing in New York City, 1996.Evan Agostini/Liaison
Allen Iverson sucking on one of his “trademark devil-may-care lollipops,” at the M.C.I. Center in Washington, D.C., 2001.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Due credit is given to the fashions of Walt Frazier, Jordan, Allen Iverson and Russell Westbrook. Missing are the contributions of Pat Riley and the late designer Cary Mitchell, the Black-power influence of Earl Monroe, and any mention whatsoever of the current W.N.B.A. as the most fashion-forward league in all of sports. But those are misses, not bricks. Because what Jackson does with “Fly” is canonize the cultural impact the “ballplayer look” has had all along.

Kobe Bryant poses for GQ in 2009.Peggy Sirota
Magic Johnson arrives at the 1988 All-Star Game in Chicago in fur.Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE, via Getty Images
Russell Westbrook, in Thom Browne, “epitomizes the redefinition of masculinity” at New York Fashion Week in 2022.Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images
Walt “Clyde” Frazier in a leather-trimmed hat and cape in New York, 1970.Walter Iooss Jr./NBAE, via Getty Images

Source: Basketball -


John Isner Says Goodbye to Pro Tennis at the U.S. Open

Saudis launch campaign to host 2034 World Cup with new $1trillion megacity as host and winter tournament among options