On October 17, 2005, National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern announced the implementation of a mandatory dress code for all NBA and NBA Development League players. This was especially noteworthy because the NBA became the first major professional sports league to implement such a rule, although National Hockey League rules state that a player is supposed to wear a jacket and tie to games and on charters if not told otherwise by the head coach or general manager. The dress code went into effect at the start of the 2005–06 NBA season.
Stern's dress code stated that all players must dress in business or conservative attire while arriving and departing during a scheduled game, on the bench while injured, and when conducting official NBA business (press interviews, charity events, etc.). The new dress code banned fashions most often associated with hip-hop culture, specifically: jerseys, jeans, hats, do-rags, T-shirts, large jewelry, sneakers and timber boots (specifically, Timberland-type boots).
This particular clothing is not allowed to be worn by players to interviews, games (on and off the bench), charity events, or any other occasion affiliated with the NBA and its developmental league (currently the G League). Violators of the dress code are fined and may be suspended with repeat offenses. The dress code was developed with the intention of combating image problems that had plagued the NBA in recent history.
Under current NBA dress regulations, if a player does not dress to participate in a game, he must dress in a manner suitable for a coach. In the NBA, a suit or a sport coat is required for coaches, as well as a necktie.
The league's image was in bad shape following the Pacers–Pistons brawl in 2004. Supporters also claim that most businesses require their employees to adhere to a dress code of some kind so the NBA is not making any unusual demands. Moreover, the NBA was not requiring players to wear a suit and tie, as had been rumored initially. Further, many NBA teams already had dress codes, as dictated by coaches or general managers. Penalties for non-compliance usually involved fines such as having to pay for one's own airfare to wherever the team was going, rather than flying on the team charter.
Critics such as Allen Iverson, Stephen Jackson and Paul Pierce claim that the dress code will not change a person's character regardless of what type of clothing they wear, and that associating hip-hop style of dress with crime or a bad image is racist. Iverson was also quoted to say, "the dress code is not who I am and doesn't allow me to express myself."
Many NBA and non-NBA sports figures also claim that it targets young black males and is a slap against hip-hop culture. Most NBA players are sponsored by casual wear brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and Converse.
Writing for Rolling Stone, Zack Graham said that although players were initially critical of the dress code, "Over the years, NBA players accepted, then embraced and eventually began to have fun with the new dress code, changing men's fashion in the process."
With Stern stepping down and Adam Silver becoming Commissioner of the NBA, the dress code became more lenient, allowing players to be more expressive with what they wear.