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Rockets' fashionable forward Tucker turns designer

FILE - In this May 17, 2018, file photo,Houston Rockets' P.J. Tucker arrives for Game 2 of the team's NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors in Houston. Tucker has become such a fashion icon that he's no longer simply wearing designer pieces, he's making them.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

P.J. Tucker has become such a fashion icon that he is no longer simply wearing designer pieces. He is making them.

The Houston Rockets forward collaborated with Italian designer Giuseppe Zanotti on a sneaker that was released in December. His latest collaboration, a shirt from New York designers Ovadia & Sons , will go on sale this weekend.

The hard-nosed defender with the gruff on-court persona flashed a huge smile as he described seeing the shirt for the first time.

"It was crazy," he told The Associated Press. "It's like seeing your baby."

Tucker has long been a fan of the brand, which is also favored by rappers Jay Z and Future and fellow NBA stars Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. He was thrilled when the company approached him with the idea of designing something for the label.

To be clear, this isn't just something Tucker slapped his name on. He said he was fully involved in every step of the process, which took about six months.

"I picked everything," he said. "They helped me out a ton trying to find fabrics and different things that could make the shirt like I wanted it. I wanted a summertime type of vibe. Really a shirt that you could wear kind of anywhere and in any situation."

One of Tucker's current fashion obsessions are buttoned-down shirts with a "really silky kind of Hawaiian feel." So that's exactly what he came up with for this project. The end result is a chic red short-sleeved shirt featuring images of race cars and the brand name in big block letters called "The P.J. Tucker Grand Prix Beach Shirt." On the inside of the neck is a tag with the brand name along with Tucker's name.

"It's a whole different process and it makes you look at clothing different when you actually see the process and everything that goes on and what goes on to be able to make it," he said. "It's not like shopping. It's a whole different experience."

Tucker unveiled the limited edition shirt, which will be sold exclusively at Neiman Marcus, earlier this week on Instagram and said he's already gotten plenty of positive feedback from friends and teammates.

Tucker has been known as a sneaker king in the NBA for years and solidified his spot in the upper echelon of the league's fashionable players in the last couple of seasons by routinely strutting into the arena alongside James Harden sporting designer threads. Until recently he couldn't have imagined himself as someone who could help create pieces like the ones he's worn for years.

"I've never looked at myself as somebody that was a creative design type of guy," he said. "Or someone who would come up with ideas for shirts and clothing and shoes, I've never really wanted my own shoe. I just always loved the process of people collaborating to make something together."

He gained inspiration from his affinity for Alexander Wang's pairing with Adidas and Virgil Abloh's coveted designs for Nike. Tucker wouldn't say what his next fashion project is, but promised some exciting things are on the horizon. He said he thinks such collaborations between athletes and high fashion designers will continue to grow as the public increasingly looks to the sports world for wardrobe inspiration.

"I think it will get bigger and bigger because they're starting to understand that guys are creative and they can come up with some really great ideas," he said. "We're the ones who wear it. We're the ones who always get the stuff to wear so to be involved with it will only get bigger and bigger over time."

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