Elements of styl'e

This story appears in the Aug. 8, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

It's a July afternoon, and Amar'e Stoudemire has just stepped into an LA photo studio. "I've been out of a job for a while," the locked-out NBA vet says to nobody in particular. "I'm ready to get to work!" But today's definition of work is dressing Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and freestyle skier Sarah Burke for the 2011 ESPY Awards. The fashion-forward forward, who's collaborating with designer Rachel Roy on her fall collection, isn't about to play it safe. His style mantra? "Dare to be different." Easier said than done.

"My style is simple -- very simple," says Lynch, who grew up in Oakland. "I ain't no flashy dude." The Seahawk arrives in an oversize T-shirt and baggy jeans that in a pinch could serve as a parachute. Stoudemire's vision: an Oakland James Bond. "A ghetto 007?" Lynch asks. "Yeah, we can try that." Stoudemire selects a gray tailored-fit two-button suit, lavender shirt and silk tie. "Brah-brah, I'm not trying to be wearing nothing small," Lynch says while tugging at the collar. "Can't be lookin' like Urkel, not bein' able to breathe 'cause the clothes are too tight." Seeing his path blocked, Stoudemire calls timeout with Lynch and focuses on his other subject.

Stoudemire sees Burke as a canvas. "Sarah's a very attractive girl," he says of the freestyle skier. "Pretty much anything she puts on she'll look great in." He plucks some sequined sweats and a white silk blouse off hangers -- and is promptly rejected. She thinks it whispers "job interview" more than it screams "I'm in Hollywood!" Skier and stylist then sit down at opposing makeup chairs, where Stoudemire works to get to know his 28-year-old subject. "So 'freestyle' means what, exactly?" he asks. "We do halfpipes," she says. "That sounds like a skateboarding term," he says. "I skateboarded growing up in New York." Translation: Skateboarders, like freestyle skiers, live life on the edge. "I'm not a pink ruffles kind of girl," Burke says.

Back with Lynch, Stoudemire pulls out a slightly roomier Dolce & Gabbana black suit with a black knit tie and a crisp white shirt. "This ain't street, this is Wall Street," Lynch says. Stoudemire can relate to his 25-year-old subject: When he was drafted out of high school in 2002, he didn't want to dress up either. "I wanted to be street, urban in fashion," he says. Just then, a blue plaid shirt catches Lynch's eye. "Oh, I like this right here," he says. Lynch then concedes by pairing it with a different three-piece suit sans the constricting coat. Says Stoudemire, "With Marshawn, it has to be one day at a time, one event at a time, but I think I succeeded with my Oakland James Bond."

Stoudemire goes to
the dressing room and grabs a short, skintight black-and-purple dress made of sheer fabric for Burke. "The dark colors make it edgy," she says. "I have big, muscular ski legs that I like to let breathe because they're always in baggy pants. I feel very comfortable in short dresses." Says Stoudemire: "Stunning. It's elegant and classy but also edgy. She's going to turn a lot of heads on the red carpet."

Sam Alipour is a contributing writer to ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. You can reach him at sam.alipour@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter here.