How Trae Young and Mo Bamba Are Fueling Basketball’s Hottest Rivalry

By Megan Gustashaw

Earlier this summer, Mo Bamba and Trae Young’s lives changed forever when they officially became NBA players. Both were wearing Express tailoring for the ceremony—Bamba in a classic navy kit and Young in a headline-grabbing shorts tux—and both were among the first picks in the 2018 Draft. We’re not going to say it was the suits that did it, but Bamba and Young looked every bit legends-in-the-making on a night when everyone in the league was watching. It was a good play.

Apart the fact that they were in the same Draft class, Bamba and Young couldn’t be more unique as players. Bamba is known for his defensive skills, made possible by his speed on the court and his record-breaking 7’10” wingspan. Young, meanwhile, is a shooting machine, with a skill set and stature that often inspires comparisons to NBA great Steph Curry. In addition to being wholly different players, Bamba and Young played on rival teams in college and will continue that tradition as pros as well.

When we brought these two together to try on our new denim collection—which has plenty of stretch for guys that move around a lot or just happen to have insanely long legs—Bamba and Young admitted that the sense of competition between them is a good thing. It helps them play more skillfully, with more energy and emotion on the court. Judging by how much fun these two had during the shoot, it’s clear that their rivalry comes from a place of respect and admiration. Here’s what they had to say about it:

Where it All Began

“Trae went to University of Oklahoma and I went to University of Texas. It’s probably one of the biggest rivalries in sports. But a rivalry is good, it makes your game better. You find yourself playing harder and being more emotional about the game with a rival on the court. It’s actually really fun.”

“I bring a lot of energy and emotion to the table when I play; I think it gives me an edge on my competitors. I definitely want to be a Hall-of-Famer when it’s all said and done. And I think I have the tools and talent to do it.”

Respect the Rival   

“Trae is a very good three-point shooter. He pulls it from way behind the three-point-line.

And even though he’s a lot smaller than some of the guards, he makes up for it with his quickness. I respect Trae’s confidence. He holds himself to a high standard and he does it with a very interesting amount of swagger.”

The Best Kind of Rivalry

“Mo is my guy. I’ve known him for years now, he’s like my brother to me. But on the court, he’s my rival. That’s especially true of this past year, when we were on rival teams. I think having a rival makes my game a whole lot better because it makes me compete harder. Knowing there’s a lot more on the line definitely lights a fire under you.”

“I’m always pushing myself to do better. I want to be one of the best ever to play this game.”

On Dressing for Success

“I think having good style is big. People always tell you ‘If you look good, you feel good, you play good.’ And if you look good, that’s what starts at all. So having style is something that I don’t take lightly.”

“My grandfather passed away when I was 10. He was the first person to introduce me to the game of basketball. I was always at my grandparents’ house growing up, watching basketball games on the couch or sitting on his leg, just talking and watching the games with him. Before I go out on the court, before every game, I always praise my grandfather, who is the reason why I play today.”

“My perfect pair of jeans are blue with a couple of tears, but not destroyed. They’re very long but not all the way down to my heels, just right above my ankle. And they’re definitely slim fit.” —Mo

“I like the darker-color jeans. I like them tight at the bottom, not baggy. But you’ve also got to be comfortable in them, too, so they need to have a little bit of stretch.” —Trae

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