The NBA: Where headphones happen
October, 18, 2012
By Jared Zwerling | ESPN.com
Nathaniel S. Butler /NBAE/Getty ImagesKing James is currently the NBA's only official endorser of Beats By Dre headphones.In the past few years, NBA broadcasts have extended the airtime of players walking into arenas and hanging out in locker rooms before games -- even using freeze-frames so the commentators can analyze what they're doing and wearing.
Any why not? The pros are playing more and more of a colorful gadgetry game, from designer shades to high-end watches to man purses, which LeBron James and Dwyane Wade blew up during last season's Finals.
So what's next? Some players around the league believe the trend of sleek and colorful rapper-inspired headphones will continue to grow. Expensive handheld devices now have expensive headphones to match, because that's how rappers do it -- big.
And that's who many ballers want to be -- rappers. A relationship that first developed in the inner cities and expanded through different cultural trends is now being forged through the headphone game.
Here are four of the latest headphones (and one accessory) you'll see in those pregame images this season.
Headphones: Beats by Dre Executive, $299
Courtesy Beats By DreThe Executive phones were released on Oct. 16.
The pulse: LeBron, Beats' only NBA endorser, put the Studio brand on the map last season. Then, it became more global when he and his Olympic teammates each received a customized gold version of the Studios soon after winning the gold medal in London.
This season, expect to see James rocking the metallic-looking Executive headphones, which launched worldwide Oct. 16. Designed with the elite, packs-light traveler in the mind, they're super-lightweight, have an elegant metal finish and hand-stitched elements, and fold flat for any business case. While Beats headphones, like the Executive, are known for their superior sound and bass system, this one sets the standard for active noise cancellation -- even at 35,000 feet.
In addition to the Executive, expect to see the Beats Pill in locker rooms this season. Retailing at $199, it's a small portable four-speaker system with Bluetooth, which emits Beats’ familiar crisp sound -- and get this -- it's only about 7 inches long.
The players: James, Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Chris Bosh have all worn Beats headphones.
Headphones: Soul SL300WB Elite Hi-Definition Noise Canceling Headphones, $299.95
Courtesy of Soul ElectronicsSuperman wears Soul.
The pulse: Like Beats co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, Ludacris was frustrated that fans weren't hearing exactly what he wanted them to hear in their ears. So, being a techie himself, the Atlanta rapper wanted to put his stamp on a headphone, and the Soul was born in 2011.
His latest creation, which came out last year but recently started to heat up with co-signs from the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, is the SL300WB. The refined-looking headphones, which have a glossy finish and comfy interior lining, come in a variety of colors and specialize in active noise cancellation. That appears to be the name of the game right now. The tighter the sound and bass, the better, which is what pro athletes want in order to listen to their pre-game motivational songs while blocking out any distractions and focusing on the task at hand.
The players: Howard, Anthony, Tracy McGrady and plenty of top 2012 rookies, including No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, Dion Waiters, Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Meyers Leonard and Tyler Zeller have all worn Soul headphones.
Headphones: WeSC Chambers by RZA Premium, $275
Courtesy of WeSC Rza's sharp contribution to the market.
The pulse: Jeremy Lin caught on to the Chambers headphones recently, and it's likely more NBAers will soon, too -- but not because of what Linsanity represents. Rather, that would be because of the technologically forward headphones, which were inspired by legendary rapper RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan.
The Chambers, which come in white or black, feature active noise cancellation -- what did I say before? -- and also have a unique music-sharing function, a three-touch hands-free unit that controls music and video playback and a LED equalizer with dotted lights on the side which move to the beat of the music. They may not yet have the prestige of Beats, but they definitely have the cool factor.
The players: Lin is the only NBA player so far who's been documented wearing the Chambers headphones.
Headphones: SMS Audio Street by 50 Cent Over-Ear Wired, $249.95
Courtesy of SMS Audio by 50 Cent50 Cent's latest biz venture.
The pulse: Late last year, when Interscope Records appeared unsure if it wanted to renew 50 Cent’s contract, the rapper basically gave his label an ultimatum: "Sign me or I'm out." Around that time, while Interscope chairman Iovine continued to focus on Beats with Dr. Dre, 50 Cent put his name on his own headphones. Now, all three of them are under the same label again -- but not with headphones.
50 Cent is pushing his new Street headphones, which released this month and are available in a variety of colors and feature an easily adjustable system and a shatterproof, ultraflexible polymer material. While 50's fairly new at it, he's proved to be a business success with brands like Reebok and Glacéau Vitaminwater. So, like the Chambers, the Street could be the new riser this season.
The players: None yet.