Victor Oladipo’s professional basketball career hasn’t even started yet, but he’s already learning one very important lesson: the NBA takes what players are wearing extremely seriously. The league may look the other way when players wear capri pants, head-to-toe orange suits, or blindingly wild shirts, but there’s a line even soon-to-be millionaire athletes can’t cross.
The lanky shooting guard from Indiana University has arrived at the 2013 NBA Draft wearing a sharp three-piece suit with a lavender shirt and black tie, but that’s not what has the league concerned.
In a first in the history of professional sports, a league official approaches Victor in the green room of the draft and asks him to take off his Google Glass.
"A once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m glad you guys get to see it from my perspective."
Of course, by then the league was too late. Photos of Victor wearing Glass had spread across Twitter and Vine, and his unusual eyewear earned mentions from USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN. On the bus heading to the draft, the official NBA Twitter account even tweeted a photo of Victor wearing Glass to its 7.2 million followers, right before he was asked to take them off.
After he was picked second overall by the Orlando Magic, bloggers and Twitter users noted that Victor didn’t wear Glass on stage to meet David Stern. "I’m automatically docking Oladipo some style points for not wearing his Google Glasses to the stage," wrote Bleacher Report’s Matt King in his fashion review of the draft. "But still, the man has a very casual swag about him."
But even though Victor is one of the few people who look cool wearing Glass, he wasn’t just trying to make a fashion statement — at least other than choosing the clear lens accessory, which somehow works for him. Victor used Glass to record his entire draft experience.
"It’s been crazy," he tells me later. "A once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m glad you guys get to see it from my perspective."
"Come with me on the VO Show"
Victor actually borrowed and wore The Verge's Glass unit for three days, starting on Tuesday by spending some time figuring out how to use the device. The hardest part was just getting them fitted; once he could see the tiny screen, he instantly understood what to do. After only about five minutes of instructions and testing he was recording himself dribbling around the lobby of the Westin and asking Glass for directions to the Barclay’s Center, where Thursday’s draft was held.
Victor says he liked the feeling that he was hosting his own show — most of the videos he took feature him narrating what he’s seeing and how he’s feeling, as though he’s trying to remember it all through the chaos. It is a fascinating and wildly intimate glimpse of what it’s like to be a 21-year-old superstar in the making. "If you thought I was nervous yesterday, imagine how I’m feeling this morning," he says, looking out over New York from his hotel room on draft day. "Come with me on the VO Show."
"I actually took a video before I went to sleep," he says. "Then I did a video just after I woke up. The entire day was just so hectic, it was amazing. I got a video of getting my hair cut, where you’re looking at the barber and stuff like that. Getting dressed." His videos show the endless stream of people coming into his tiny hotel room on the day of the draft, a cavalcade of friends, teammates, former coaches, and various unidentified associates — the NBA made them all sign appearance releases because the league was filming a documentary on the draft, but Victor just shot his own story right alongside them.
On the way to the 2013 #NBADraft presented by @StateFarm with @vicoladipo. http://t.co/YhALPsPTsP— NBA (@NBA) June 27, 2013
In the midst of it all, Victor says Glass wasn’t distracting to him, although it did attract a fair share of attention from his fellow players. "Alex Len was really into it," he says. "Michael Carter-Williams, Ben Mclemore, all the guys. They thought it was pretty cool, they tried ‘em on, got their own perspective. It was pretty fresh."
But once the league noticed his unusual eyewear, it was all over. "I got to wear them on the bus, and in the green room, and that’s when they kinda shut it down," he says. "They just said they didn’t want me to wear them."
I ask him if he was willing to risk a fine on his first day in the NBA, and he laughs at me. "No way did I want to do that. It was pretty cool up to that point, though."
Glass is weird and new, and the NBA is not known for loving weird and new
It’s not exactly clear why the NBA decided that Victor shouldn’t wear Glass at the draft, but it’s disappointing; only an incredibly select few know what it’s like to walk up the stairs and across that stage to shake David Stern’s hand as your life changes forever, and Victor’s first-person video would have given the rest of us a glimpse of that moment. It would have been amazing. But Glass is weird and new, and the NBA is not known for loving weird and new; the league was the first major US sports organization to adopt a formal dress code, and it has fined players for wearing unapproved sweaters. Funky glasses with a built-in camera didn’t really stand a chance.
Now that he’s been drafted, Victor’s interested in buying Glass for himself — the first person I know who actually wants to buy a pair after a test drive. "Oh, I need five pairs," he says, laughing. "I want like, black, blue — you know, Orlando black and blue. Or white and silver." I get the feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more first-person video from Victor in the future as he begins his career with the Magic.
"I’m just looking forward to seeing how it grows," he says. "The sky’s the limit."