When hip-hop culture struck the NBA in the late '90s and early '00s, people got scared. Here were these giant black guys dressing provocatively—rocking chains and looking like Paid In Full characters. In the aftermath of the Malice at the Palace—an event that, on basic racial terms, saw an enraged black man attack an innocent white man under false pretenses (try spinning that to conservative white America)—David Stern instituted a dress code for players (also because of Allen Iverson). This cleaned up how players appeared when presented on camera to NBA audiences, but the looks of players like J.R. Smith and Allen Iverson, Kobe's rape allegation, as well as Gilbert Arenas and Delonte West's gun charges, the status quo was kept the same.
The NBA Cares campaign is actively trying to combat the "thug" image of the league, and with clean-cut, humble, and charamatic superstars like LeBron James, Blake Griffin (c'mon, his KIA commercials are pretty fun), and Kevin Durant, this stereotype should be dead and gone soon.