By Rahul Lal
Jordan Clarkson was taken 46th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. He was one of the biggest steals that year. Since then the young guard has played his way into a $50 million contract extension and become the Lakers' most consistent contributor since Kobe Bryant.
His talents -- and passions -- extend beyond the court. Clarkson met up with famous fashion designer Chris Stamp of Stampd at a recent 'Beyond the Court' event sponsored by Delta Air Lines and the Lakers. The two have been collaborating on a spring streetwear line, and this was an opportunity to involve the fans.
"He's got a great eye for [fashion]," said Stamp. "That's why we were paired together. He's respected off the court for how he dresses, and he has been pretty inclined to get recognition in the fashion world for that. For some of the younger kids aspiring to do what he does, they look at him as one of the guys. So it's really cool."
Clarkson has been recognized for his style beyond the sports community. Garnering interest from the fashion community and mentions in major outlets such as Vogue, he has turned into something of a fashion icon. While he may rock Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, he mixes it up with more everyday brands as an ode to his younger days when he couldn't afford the major brands.
"I feel like [my style] has always been the same," he said. "Just having access to names now makes it a lot easier. Sometimes I didn't like what I had to buy, but now I can actually get what I want. Growing up, I used to wear whatever. Everything Vans, just a bunch of stuff. I used to shop in H&M, Urban Outfitters. I still go to those shops, mix it all in. I feel like that's how my style is different, you'll see me wearing a little bit of everything."
Many athletes love to flash name brands in public, but Clarkson's style is a bit less flash and a bit more relaxed. While he may still wear icy watches, he also isn't afraid to don tracksuits and sneakers as long as he's comfortable. Stamp felt like Clarkson perfectly fit the contemporary avant-street look Stampd was going for with this new spring line. The brand flexes its west coast influence. And the Lakers' star firmly believes that the NBA's best dressed all represent the west coast.
"I feel like the Lakers probably got the two best dressed players in the league between me and 'Swag,'" he responded referencing the always fashionable Nick Young. "That's probably it right there. Russell Westbrook and James Harden, them two are well dressed too. They're from L.A. so they have that L.A. swag too."
While Clarkson may represent Los Angeles these days, he holds his African-American and Filipino heritage close to his heart, never failing to refer to the Philippines as one of his true homes. Clarkson is one of only a handful of Filipino players to put on an NBA jersey and dreams of playing for the country's national team. Former NBA player Andray Blatche went through the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the Philippines back in 2014 to gain his eligibility. Clarkson isn't eligible and hasn't yet competed for the national team but is determined to one day.
"We're going to make playing for the Filipino National Team happen," he assured everyone after proudly mentioning his relationship with the country and its people. "It just comes with time and being able to connect with those people. I feel all the support and love they had throughout my years in the NBA, so I'm still trying to do well for them and, hopefully, be able to put on for my country."
Though only 24-years-old, Clarkson is actually one of the older and longest-tenured players on the current Lakers' roster. Going through an entire rebuild, the Lakers have put their attention and focus on developing young talent and determining which players will figure in their future. Since Lakers president, Jeanie Buss, threw out her brother and installed longtime friends of the organization Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the team has embraced the rebuild and let the young guys play.
Clarkson has benefitted from the shakeup, averaging over 19 points per game along with four assists during March. That run includes a 35-point performance on March 24 against the Minnesota Timberwolves -- a new career high. The rest of the young core, including D'Angelo Russell (18.6 points), Brandon Ingram (13.5 points) and Julius Randle (13 points), have all showed consistency and significant improvement recently.
"I was here when Kobe was playing," he began. "And now I'm here, and he's not. We're finally having the opportunity where we learn through our own bumps without having some of the older guys there. We sat all our veteran guys out the rest of the season, and we're kind of out there fending for ourselves, man."
New Lakers coach Luke Walton has helped feed Clarkson's positive outlook going forward. As the young guard mentioned, Walton can relate to the players, having played for the team just a few years ago. He always has their backs. The Lakers' future is bright, but that potential depends on versatile players like Jordan Clarkson, who will have to continue leading off and on the court. All signs suggest he will.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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