Like a true New Yorker, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has subway stories. Like the one day he tried to take the train to the Nets training facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, got on the wrong line, and ended up on the opposite side of the borough.
“It was bad, man,” he jokes.
Entering his third season with the Nets, the 6’7” forward is now pretty comfortable traveling underground where you can frequently catch him, believe it or not. Which means he’s fully embraced Brooklyn and its unique vibe. Less than a week before training camp starts, he’s up on the roof of the HSS Training Facility, decked out in some exclusive gear that reps the County of Kings to the fullest.
The Nets and Rank + Rally came together to create Brooklyn Cool, a local style collective featuring apparel and accessories from noted New York brands Antler & Woods, Extra Butter, Kinfolk, IGWT, and PINTRILL. Believed to be the first collaboration between an NBA team and multiple brands, the gear that is uniquely Brooklyn goes on sale Sept. 30 to coincide with the opening of the new Swag Shop at Barclays Center where select pieces will be available.
We caught up with Hollis-Jefferson, who modeled a few of the pieces, to talk about his unique style and which one of his teammates desperately needs help getting dressed. We also chatted up one of the newest Nets, DeMarre Carroll, who might give Hollis-Jefferson a run for his money in a battle of the fits. Carroll, who also sported gear from the collection, discussed his mentor role as one of the Nets’ elder statesman, why he's got more style than most cats in the league, and why he’s not a fan of the season starting earlier than ever.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
How would you define Brooklyn style?
DeMarre Carroll: Brooklyn’s more suave. It’s more smooth. Me being from Atlanta it’s more like swaggy and flashy. Brooklyn’s like more nice, clean cut, smooth.
How has your style evolved over the years?
DC: Even in college I was a dresser.
Where’d you get that from?
DC: My mom. When I was 3 or 4 years old she would send me to school in matching sweatsuits, matching shoes. She would always say, "When you step out, you represent your family. When you step out you represent me." I’ve seen it evolve in the NBA; the older you get, the more money you get and you can put things together, but I see a lot of people with a lot of money who don’t have style in the NBA.
You tweeted recently "Always dress like your (sic) going to see your worst enemy." Explain that to me.
DC: You always want to show the people who disliked you, who you felt didn’t help you get to where you need to be, you want to show them I’ve made it. I have a different sense of swag about myself. Every day I step out, I’m looking for my worst enemy because I want them to see me now rather than look at me before.
Rondae, you’re the crazy dresser on the Nets?
RHJ: One hundred percent. I haven’t really seen D’Angelo (Russell) or DeMarre’s fits yet, but once I see theirs it may help me or may have me looking like wow. But I know previous years I’ve been the guy that came in looking like the head turner.
Who needs the most help with style on the team?
RHJ: Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, but my man Trevor Booker…like he’s got so much potential. He needs some fine tuning. My suggestion for the fine tuning is let me be the coach.
Do guys go to you for advice?
RHJ: I’m not going to lie, they call me. They ask me what I’m wearing.
Basketball wise, you’re about a week from the season beginning but you had an eventful summer. What was the highlight?
RHJ: I did a couple of things. The highlight of my summer was going to Africa. Having African family, it was near and dear to my heart to see where civilization started. Just to embrace that and see how the kids live over there and what they go through was extremely beneficial and you kind of feel embarrassed just about the problems you complain about growing up and the problems you complain about today. Being over there was like, boom, the best thing that’s happened to me.
You played at the Steve Nash Foundation Showdown in New York where we also saw Joel Embiid’s Yeezy come flying off.
RHJ: First off, the kid who threw it back is crazy. I would have ran. Everyone knows that's his shoes. It would have went viral.
What's your feel on this team before the season tips?
RHJ: It’s definitely tough to say. Basketball comes from a relationship standpoint. Comes from a comfort level or a trust level, an understanding most teams don’t have and that’s when you see teams struggle. We can say on paper we’ve got one of the most skilled teams but…I won’t say hypothetically, our preparation is last to no one.
DeMarre, you’re coming from an organization in Toronto that’s had great success to one that hasn’t. Have you prepared yourself mentally for a regression and your new role as a mentor to the younger players?
DC: Yeah, for sure. I have to get ready to go through obstacles with this team. I have to keep these guys together. We have to truly believe in the system and truly believe in coach.
Your personal expectations are what?
DC: To help lead these guys to be better than they were last year. And personal expectations are to be that 3-D, both sides of the basketball player when I’m healthy, and this is the healthiest I’ve been in two years. It’s an exciting time for me and an exciting time for the organization.
What’s one issue you’d really like to see the NBA address?
DC: Me personally, I’m not a fan of the back-to-backs.
So are you happy the league moved the season up to help alleviate that and get rid of the four games in five nights?
DC: Is that really going to resolve the fatigue factor? No four in five nights that means you’re missing the rest time in the summer, you’re starting earlier to get ready for training camp. It’s a give and a take. Guys who are done with the playoffs late have to get right back ready to train. I feel like it’s not fair to those guys.
Finally, Rondae, what’s your craziest subway story?
RHJ: I’ve got some good ones. I was on one with seven kids and they all knew who I was. And I was like, uhh….invasion of personal space. They were the same kids that chase our car after the game.