On Wednesday night, a few hours before they tipped off at home against the Grizzlies, the Oklahoma City Thunder showed up looking ready to work. And not on the court—more like if they all served on the board of the world’s swaggiest hedge fund. Rookie guard Darius Bazley sauntered in like a ten-year vet in a double-breasted chalk-stripe suit with a matching tie and a pair of serious Clark Kent frames. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, maybe the most stylish player on the roster, traded in his regular rotation of advanced streetwear for a lush camel sport coat over a trim turtleneck and gray flannels. And then, most brain-exploding of all, noted sweatpants enthusiast and Jason Momoa stunt double Steven Adams—all seven feet and 250 pounds of him—rolled in direct from the set of Peaky Blinders: painted-on navy three-piece, peak lapels wider than a GMC Yukon, all topped off with a tweedy newsboy cap.
The last Thunder to arrive was the same one responsible for the whole thing: a power-pinstriped Chris Paul, who swathed his entire team in fine tailoring as a personal gift.
It’s hardly out of the ordinary, of course, for NBA teams to treat the pregame tunnel like a red carpet—sometimes literally, like in the case of the Houston Rockets, who lead the league in OFPG (that’s outrageous fits per game, for all the non-statheads out there). And while modern NBA style tends to trend toward the wilder, looser end of the menswear spectrum, squad-wide suiting does have some precedent: LeBron James famously decked his Cavs out in Thom Browne’s signature highwater silhouette during the 2018 playoffs. But the suits OKC rocked last night weren’t high-concept fashion uniforms à la Browne; they were suit-suits, the old-fashioned kind, real-deal bespoke numbers in a multitude of individually-chosen fabrics and cuts. What prompted Paul to give his teammates the collective glow-up? It all started with Marvin Gaye and the Redeem Team.
In the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics, during Team USA’s very first practice, head coach Mike Krzyzewski rolled a television onto the court and played his recruits a tape of Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. “It gave us all goosebumps,” Paul recalled to GQ earlier this week. “We actually wished we could have had that play when we won the gold medal.” This past summer, during a game night he was hosting at home in L.A., Paul told that story and pulled the video of Gaye’s anthem up on YouTube to show the group. Courtney Mays, Paul’s longtime stylist and a close family friend, immediately zeroed in on one thing: Gaye’s impeccable double-breasted pinstripe suit.
“[Gaye’s] style is just super iconic,” Mays explained. “I said [to Chris], ‘Let’s make that the first game look.’” To turn that dream into a reality—and to continue the work they’d begun last season, making a conscious effort to support black designers and historically black colleges and universities—Mays and Paul tapped Davidson Petit-Frère, the Brooklyn-bred tailor behind some of Jay-Z, Diddy, and Michael B. Jordan’s sharpest ensembles. While getting fitted for that opening night suit, the idea suddenly came to Paul: why not do this for the Thunder? In seasons past, Paul had given his teammates gifts like bowling balls and headphones, but this had the potential to be something more special. “We just thought, why not treat the guys to a nice custom suit?” Paul said. “It’s one of those things that not everyone has in their closet.”
Fast forward to October, and Mays and Petit-Frère set up shop in the Thunder’s practice facility to measure the players and help them design their suits: choosing the fabric from a handful of preselected patterns and colors, along with determining the silhouettes, custom embroideries and accoutrements. “That was important to me,” Paul said of letting his teammates decide on their own looks. “Everybody has their own style, so we gave the guys that experience. I wanted guys to be able to determine, you know, do you want to wear a vest? Do you want a shirt and tie, or just a shirt? A mock-neck or a turtleneck? That’s the biggest thing when it comes to fashion. It’s all individual—it’s your personality, it’s an opportunity to show the world what you’re like.”
When Mays and Petit-Frère returned a few weeks later with the completed suits for a fitting, the reactions were even stronger than they expected. “There were a couple of tears shed, for sure,” Mays said. The youngest Thunder, 19-year-old Bazley, was ecstatic as soon as he slipped the jacket on. “He started running around the entire building, modeling for the players, the staff, everybody,” Petit-Frère laughed. “That was his first time in a custom suit in his life, and the fit was spot on. Seeing that reaction made me take a step back. Me and Courtney were like, ‘Wow, this is what Chris did it for.’”
As the elder statesman on a young and rebuilding OKC roster, Paul’s made an effort this season to take some of his budding teammates—Bazley and 21-year-old Gilgeous-Alexander, in particular—under his wing. “We’ve had a lot of conversations in the locker room about a lot of different things, whether it be finance or life or this transition from high-school to college to the NBA,” Paul said. “It sounds crazy, but when you come into the NBA as a rookie, even though everyone on the outside thinks you have all this money and all this different type of stuff, you really don’t. You’re in a completely new world. When you’re 20 years old, you don’t understand finance. You’ve just been playing basketball all your life. I’ve had a number of vets that gave me knowledge and advice over the years, and if I can help the younger guys in any way possible—whether it be giving them a nice suit or anything like that—then why not?”
Part of the lesson here was to show his sweats- and streetwear-favoring mentees the value of occasionally dressing like you really mean business. But more than that, Paul hopes they’ll see the value in championing minority voices in fashion like Petit-Frère, and the ways their fits can build more than just clout.
“I think we can educate each other,” Paul said. “And the biggest thing is to support, support, support. You know, I have a number of friends with clothing lines, and people want to send you this, or send you that. Like Tamera Young, who plays in the WNBA, she’s like my sister. She has a brand, and she’s always like, ‘C, let me send you this to wear.’ And I’m blessed enough to be in a situation to say, ‘Nope! Me and my wife, we’re on your website, and we want to buy.’ And that’s the thing we gotta remember to do with people: support.”
Given the way the Thunder all swaggered into the arena last night—and the fact that they swaggered out with a much-needed win—it feels like CP3’s message was received loud and clear. It also seems likely this won’t be the last time you’ll see OKC’s young guns suited to the nines.
Or, most of them, anyway. When reporters asked Adams when he’d next dust off his brand new bespoke suit—which, according to Petit-Frère, required a full extra yard of wool more than the rest of his teammates’—he had a date in mind. “Probably my funeral, mate.”
Originally Appeared on GQ