Serge Ibaka is many things. He’s an 11-year NBA veteran. He’s a member of the Toronto Raptors 2019 championship team. He’s also regarded as one of the most fashionable players in the league. But if you ask the man himself, he says he doesn’t even think he’s good at dressing.
“When I dress, in my mind, I know I'm doing art. I don't dress. I don't do drip. I don't just do swag. I do art. That's the difference. When it comes to fashion, I'm an artist,” Ibaka tells Complex. “When you talk about the best dresser, don't ever put me there, because I'm not there. And honestly, I can tell you, I don't think I'm good at dressing. I don't dress. I do art. It's a different game.”
Ibaka has certainly carved out a lane for himself over the past few years among the young crop of players known for rocking the latest and most hyped-up streetwear pieces and limited sneakers. While Ibaka dabbles in that realm occasionally, you will be much more likely to see him in a tailored suit or a knit sweater. He’s gone viral for his tendency to rock massive luxury scarves (“That’s pure art.”) and get a fit off even while wearing a walking cast. He’s also worn a kilt to the Thom Browne show during Paris Fashion Week back in 2019 . And now, one year after being announced as a global ambassador for Nobis, he is releasing his first clothing collaboration with the Canadian outerwear brand.
“[Nobis] already has a lot of beautiful pieces out there. They have beautiful coats, stuff like that. They really do a great job. But I kind of feel like with my vision of style, I wanted to add some flavor on that,” says Ibaka. “It's a dream come true. Because I always wanted to just do my own things. I always wanted to design with my ideas. Some collaborations just do everything for you, and then they come and they say, ‘Hey, is this what you like?’ With Nobis, we started from scratch. Everything you're going to see in that collection is coming from me. They really listened to me.”
The nine-piece collection, which officially releases on Nobis’ online store today with prices ranging from $60 to $995, consists of multiple garments designed for colder temperatures like insulated olive green parkas, bomber jackets, hooded anoraks, a windproof tactical vest, and ripstop bucket hats that can reverse to reveal a camo pattern and Ibaka’s signature catchphrase, “Mafuzzy,” written across the brim. Reflective taping and iridescent branding badges are also featured in the line.
“When you see this collection, it's me, it's my style,” says Ibaka. “I want to wear it proudly.”
Ibaka says his interest in
fashion art initially came about a few years ago, while he was still a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He credits one of the NBA’s most polarizing dressers, who he calls the league’s best, Russell Westbrook.
“I remember me and Russell were the people who were studying these things. He's actually the first player who started to go to Paris for Fashion Week. The first players I remember who started to go to Fashion Week were me and Russell.”
When it comes to his most recent team, the Raptors, Ibaka gives OG Anunoby his flowers as the best dressed player in the locker room although he admits the team as a whole is usually dressing pretty well. At the moment, it is currently unclear which jersey Ibaka will be suiting up in when the NBA returns in late December. Rumors point to teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers expressing interest. Maybe he returns to the Raptors. But Ibaka says he will be happy no matter the outcome. And of course, he’ll be bringing his art to the tunnels regardless of what city he is in.
“Every time good teams or good organizations want you, it's good. That means you've been doing something good. I'm just going to wait and see.”
But the real question, can anybody make art if they rock pieces from the Serge Ibaka x Nobis collection?
“Everybody can be an artist in their mind. Everyone who is going to go buy a piece, they're buying art. So when you wear a piece of my collection, you're doing art,” says Ibaka. “Even if you don't like art or you don't know about art, just the fact that you wear the outfit, that's art. Welcome to the art world of Mafuzzy.”