Credit: Troy Haliburton
Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tony Snell Credit: KEITH ALLISON/FLICKR

Kelly Oubre Jr. walked into the arena for the Wizards’ Friday night game against the Brooklyn Nets decked out in a Supreme hoodie, black leather pants, and a pair of old-school Chuck Taylors. In a world where teams, fans, and media members cover NBA player entrances as if they were a fashion runway, Oubre has distinguished himself from his peers. He has his own aesthetic and lifestyle brands are starting to pay attention.

The thing that separates Oubre’s style from that of other NBA players is quite simple to the 22-year-old NBA starit’s because he does it all himself. “Yeah, I style myself, I don’t have a stylist,” he says. “I take this very seriously. This fashion stuff is not a game. A lot of these dudes want to say that they’re the freshest in the league when they have a stylist, and I’m just like…how?”

Athletic apparel companies lined up to court the sneaker free agent when Oubre’s rookie shoe deal with Adidas ended on Oct. 1. The New Orleans native ultimately ended up signing a multi-year deal with Converse, a brand making a return to basketball after being out of the market since 2012.

Oubre met with Converse after speaking with representatives from other bands like Puma and New Balance and the company, known for its distinct high tops Chuck Taylorsneakers (named after the basketball player) pitched Oubre by offering him creative control over what his sneakers will look and feel like. He will be the only athlete flying the Converse flag for the company that started in 1908.

“Converse is reinventing themselves into the basketball world,” Oubre told a group of reporters after his deal was announced Friday morning.

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Oubre fancies himself as a rockstar and his partnership with the company allows him to reach outside of the game of basketball. With Converse being a subsidiary of Nike, Oubre will still wear Nike basketball shoes on the court until Converse is able to finalize a signature basketball shoe for the former Kansas Jayhawk.

In recent weeks, Oubre has been wearing classic Kobe Bryant sneakers and plans to do so going forward because of the durability and flexibility they provide, but also to pay homage to his favorite athlete growing up: “The mindset, the physical ability, all the things [Bryant] embodied and brought to the game is something that I think about on a daily basis. To be able to wear his shoes is just a reminder.”

During the offseason, Oubre makes it a point of emphasis to go to New York fashion week and network with fashion labels and tastemakers. One of the things that impressed Oubre about Converse’s lifestyle marketing is the fact that they collaborate with some of the heavy hitters in the fashion world, such as Comme des Garçons and Virgil Abloh.

Kelly Oubre Jr. wearing Converse sneakers Credit: Troy Haliburton

Oubre hopes to launch his own apparel brand “Dope Soul” under the Converse umbrella and to “build a community of young individuals who aspire to be great and are into all the hip stuff, but also want to send the message to help this world be a better place.” As much as Oubre wants to be a businessman outside of the game of basketball, he also wants to reach the youth through fashion.

Oubre says that he got the style bug from watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a kid and that sense blossomed to a full on infatuation as he has gotten older.

“It’s all organic,” he says when asked about his current fashion inspirations. “I really love to look nice and to dress nice and to be trendy. I have a lot of young fans who look up to me and wanna see what I have on, it’s definitely not about what I have on but how you can make yourself happy with what you have on.”

Teaching kids to not be worried about designer clothes, but rather simply taking pride and how being presentable and looking nice can go a long way in how kids feel about themselves and Oubre wants to be the athlete to convey this message.

While Oubre was a first round pick in 2015, he is still a role player on a middling (and dysfunctional) franchise and players of his profile typically do not garner much attention from brands.

But beyond the court, Oubre has amassed over half a million followers on Instagram and uses the social media platform to promote his lifestyle that he affectionately calls “The Wave.” Wave Papi (Oubre’s nickname) made headlines last season when he wore a sleeve sporting a logo of the skateboarding clothing brand Supreme, which the NBA forced him to remove, citing violations of the league’s rules against displaying any commercial, promotional, or charitable names. When asked about how he felt the decision, Oubre responded: “I guess it was too wavy for them.”

Now, with his own innovative deal with Converse, Oubre can continue to push the fashion envelope and create his own wave.

“Converse started with basketball and then it went into the rock stage, then it went to people wearing them without any thought of what the foundation of the brand was,” he says. “That’s pretty dope because you can’t even define Converse because we’ve done everything and we’re about to take over the world.”