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Great moments in NBA accessories

Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder talks in the press conference
Kevin Durant's backpack emerges as an improbable postseason star.
NewsCore Scott Cacciola, Wall Street Journal
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DALLAS

If the Oklahoma City Thunder can't beat the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, it will be knocked out of the NBA's Western Conference Finals. A loss also would end a compelling run by one of the postseason's most improbable stars.

We're referring, of course, to Kevin Durant's backpack.

NERD CHIC

See the backpack that emerged as an improbable postseason star.

Durant, Oklahoma City's standout forward, created a phenomenon when he began wearing his knapsack to postgame press conferences this month. Not only does Durant fasten the backpack's straps around his chest, he also has a habit of buttoning his shirt all the way to the very top — nerd chic at its most blatant. The clean-cut Durant looks more like an eighth-grader shuffling his way to social studies than a 22-year-old multimillionaire who led the league in scoring.

Durant has said this was never about making a fashion statement. He simply wanted to be able to make a quick escape to the team bus after meeting with the media — and to have easy access to his Bible, which he carries with him.

In his understated way, Durant also has used the backpack to express his style. And in the NBA, which has adhered to a strict "business casual" dress code since 2005, accessories such as these have become the easiest way for players to assert their fashion sense and become trendsetters.

Under the dress code, players are required to wear dress coats, collared shirts and slacks whenever tending to league-related business away from the court. Within these limits, players have still found room to show flashes of personal style through accessories ranging from headphones and glasses to backpacks and silk pocket squares.

Since NBA players are among the most visible and recognizable athletes in sports, it's not surprising that these subtle choices can have an outsized impact in the fashion world.

When Team USA traveled to China for the 2008 Summer Olympics, LeBron James gave each of his teammates a set of "Beats by Dr. Dre" headphones as a gift. The headphones, which were developed by the rap impresario, were big and flashy, and photographers shot the players wearing them when they arrived in Beijing. Almost instantly, the headphones became a status symbol and a fashion statement. Last year, the company says it sold more than one million pairs. "Team USA was incredible for us," said music executive Jimmy Iovine, who co-owns "Beats by Dr. Dre."

For Durant, the backpack has been such a hit that Eric Goodwin, one of his agents, said he called Nike this month to talk about including backpacks as part of Durant's fall line for the company. (Nike has yet to confirm any plans.)

Stu Vetter, Durant's former high school coach at Montrose Christian in Maryland, said he's gotten a kick out of the backpack, but has a hard time understanding the fuss. "All our kids wear backpacks," he said, "except we wear the Jordan brand."

Tagged: Thunder, Kevin Durant

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