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When an NBA player's new look goes viral or—worse yet—gets worn by someone else, those stylish pieces lose all their luster. A celebrity stylist dishes on the afterlife of a memorable athlete outfit

IT HAPPENS every few seasons, when a particular piece at a runway show catches the eyes of so many NBA players that it quickly becomes a must-have. A few years ago, it was the Saint Laurent classic teddy jacket, a sharp, vintage-looking wool varsity jacket (with a $2,550 price tag) that appeared on the sculpted shoulders of countless players during pregame catwalks.

What happens after an athlete is spotted in a distinctive look, or worse yet, seen sporting the same getup as an opponent? They'll be pitted against each other in an Internet-fueled "Who Wore It Best?" competition and then forced to retire the style altogether. This is one of the unwritten rules of NBA fashion: Don't repeat any memorable, bright-colored or patterned ensemble, especially if it ends up on Instagram.

"When certain things get photographed, they're finished," says Paige Geran, a stylist who's worked with Kobe Bryant, Damian Lillard and P.J. Tucker, among others. "That picture's going to go everywhere. All the blogs will pick it up."

Once that happens, the stylist must get creative. Geran says that she may try to mix the item into another outfit or re-create the look at a later date. Or she might pack the apparel for the player's vacation or some other occasion when he is unlikely to be photographed. "I'll try to maximize stuff when I know we spent quite a bit," says Geran. More often, the vibrant floral suits or snakeskin trousers are simply relegated to the back of the closet. Often, they will be donated to charity. "Sometimes, around Oklahoma City, I see a lot of people with my clothes, which I know where they got them from," Russell Westbrook said during a 2017 appearance on Ellen.

But even that's not exactly straightforward: Aside from their height, basketball players have long arms, broad frames and thick thighs. "You can't just give [the clothes] to a church," Geran says. "They're going to be like, What do we do with this?"

Sometimes, she gives the clothes to tall boys in high school who have trouble finding pieces that fit and can't afford custom clothes their size. Many are budding basketball players themselves. And who knows? Maybe one day, if they're lucky enough to make it into the league, they'll be able to rock a vintage Saint Laurent jacket on their own walk to the locker room.