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In only one lockout-shortened season, New York Knicks starting center Tyson Chandler is already one of the most beloved Knicks since the days of Ewing, Starks and Oakley. The 29-year-old Chandler came to Madison Square Garden in the off-season by way of free agency and a 2011 NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks. He has succeeded by playing the sort of body-first, think-later game that New York has sorely lacked in the last decade or so. Sure, Carmelo Anthony’s scoring and Amar’e Stoudemire’s occasional explosions grab headlines, but the Knicks’ recent playoff berth would have been inconceivable without Chandler, who won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award for his efforts.
So it’s a little weird to be sitting with Chandler in a downtown photo studio on a Monday afternoon talking about capes. “Probably the most dramatic pieces in my wardrobe would be capes,” he says with a smile. “I wouldn’t consider myself Goth, but I love Gothic pieces.”
Gritty defensive specialists are not traditionally the cape-wearing sort, but Chandler draws a clear line between his style on and off court. Away from the game, he’s an art-loving hipster with a beard and a passion for photography and friends—he’s a good pal of Warhol protégé Ari Marcopoulos—to match.
Today, Chandler is dressed more conservatively. The Knicks’ season died spectacularly at the hands of the Miami Heat less than a week before, and he’s due for a break in the Bahamas. He’s gotten a jump start on his vacation wear in Nantucket-red linen pants and a light gray button-up (both by Waraire Boswell). With his no-fuss Sperry Top-Siders and black diamond earrings, his modified prep look wouldn’t be out of place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His 7-foot, 1-inch frame might be.
Chandler was 16 when he hit his full height, and his proportions forced him into a mass-market look. But his first NBA contract allowed him to break out a bit, and now that he’s landed in one of the world’s fashion capitals, he’s following his whims. In New York, “everything is accessible,” he says. “When I’m in other cities, you can’t just pop up at Rick Owens….You can’t just go down to Tom Ford.”
Like Stoudemire and Anthony before him, Chandler has become a regular on the city’s style scene, meriting front row at fashion shows and an invite to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala. He looks forward to broadening his horizons this summer when he’s in London playing with Team USA in the Olympics. Savile Row calls.
Like all mortal Manhattanites, though, he’s got one limitation to deal with. “You’re not running from that,” he says of the closet space in his Upper West Side apartment. “I don’t care who you are…you’re dealing with the same thing. There’s no room for error.”