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Iconic athlete fashion moments that defined 2023

Sue Bird, Frances Tiafoe, Natasha Cloud, and of course Gradey Dick, lit up the sports fashion world in 2023.

2023 NBA Draft Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

As we say goodbye to 2023, let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the most memorable trends and looks that athletes brought us this year.

From the reliably fashion-forward to the more experimental, certain players have definitely stood out, pushing the boundaries of style and fashion.

Sykes & Cloud: Team Papi Crop

Minnesota Lynx v Washington Mystics Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Since joining the Mystics this year, Brittney Sykes became fast friends with teammate Natasha Cloud, and the two trendsetters have become a force to be reckoned with both on and off the court.

According to team lore, Cloud felt the practice shirts were too long and took matters into her own hands by simply cutting hers in half. Sykes immediately followed suit, saying, “My inner feminine is coming out and I want to cut mine too. So I cut mine so we got belly button coming out and then they get higher and higher so now all of our hoodies and tank tops are papi crops. And then just the coined phrase ‘papi,’ it’s just ‘papi crop.’ So it’s not a tank top or a crop top, it’s a papi crop.”

The rest, as they say, is history, and time will only tell if the papi crop trend will continue into the summer of 2024.

Sha’Carri Richardson

TOPSHOT-ATHLETICS-WORLD-2023 Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

At face value, it’s hard to call her a minimalist, but Sha’Carri Richardson’s new look is comparatively muted next to her 2021 breakout. With a fresh world championship in tow, she’s also the Outsports honoree for female athlete of the year for 2023, fully coming into her own this year both as a runner and in her vibrant personal style. Much like Flo-Jo who came before her, the track doubles as a runway when she’s competing.

It’s Frances Tiafoe’s year (we’re just living in it)

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images

Frances Tiafoe had a banner 2023, from earning his long-anticipated top-10 debut in the ATP rankings to making history with Ben Shelton as the U.S. Open this summer, the first Major since 1968 to feature two Black American men in quarterfinals.

Fittingly, Tiafoe also stepped up his tennis kits and got to update the look from solid-color polos to some loud, proud, and extremely complicated prints.

Ever loyal to his hometown of DC, he has also been known for repping Washington Mystics jerseys on the practice courts, which earns him bonus points in my book.

The Phillies’ matching overalls

Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Stylish and functional, perfect for carrying a celebratory Budweiser or five. The Phillies ended their World Series bid woefully early but their postgame overalls will continue to make a mark on MLB’s sartorial scene.

Wearing a t-shirt underneath is of course optional, as the team will attest on and off the field.

NB: I would love to offer Joc Pederson the opportunity to make this list next year by actually joining the Phillies, bringing back the pearl necklace, or ideally both.

Sue Bird’s jersey retirement ceremony suit

Washington Mystics v Seattle Storm Photo by Scott Eklund/NBAE via Getty Images

On June 11, the Seattle Storm held a ceremony at Climate Pledge arena for the jersey retirement of WNBA legend Sue Bird, honoring her two-decade-long career in the league.

Bird herself turned up in a bright green suit to match the team’s green and yellow colors, but keen eyes will have noticed – as many did – that her suit wasn’t just any old shade of green. It was chrome key!

Thank you, Sue Bird, for your unparalleled contributions to women’s basketball, and even in retirement giving fans a night of green screen fun.

Jimmy Butler’s media day makeover

Miami Heat Media Day Photo by Sam Navarro/Getty Images

It was a tough offseason for everyone, and Jimmy Butler bravely appeared at media day baring what we’ve all been feeling with an emo-inspired rebrand, complete with eyeliner, lip ring, black nail polish, and a flat-ironed hair so crispy that I can smell the burnt ends through the photo and hear the MCR playing from my sister’s old iPod.

“This is my emotional state,” he told an interviewer at the presser.

Butler is first and foremost a performance artiste, a man committed to the bit, and he chided multiple people that day for attempting to get him to break character. If “Playoff Jimmy” didn’t already have you on board the Butler bandwagon, Emo Jimmy might have been the persona that won you over.

Gradey Dick’s draft night fit

2023 NBA Draft Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Longtime readers will know I hate to hand it to the 2019 NBA Champions, but in the spirit of journalistic integrity I have to call a W when I see one.

This year the Raptors signed Gradey Dick with the 13th pick in the NBA Draft, and his dazzling red sequin suit was the talk of draft night. When asked about it, the kid from Kansas explained his suit was referencing Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

Was this the first time an NBA player has ever paid homage to Judy Garland? I certainly hope it’s not the last. If you needed a second reason to go out and buy a ‘DICK’ jersey, let this be it.