One of the least consequential—but most fun—elements of NBA games we’re losing in the Bubble is courtside seating. Sideline seats in New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere have long been sites for unexpected celebrity mingling, real big fits, and some of the most outrageous watches in existence. It was only last year, during the Toronto Raptors’ run to an NBA Finals victory, that our dearly beloved Drake wore a watch professing his desire to do all sorts of bleepable actions. This year, obviously, there will be no fans—outrageously famous or not—sitting courtside. There will be no fits, there will be no sexy watches. So consider this a sort of In Memoriam of the 2019-2020 season, the NBA’s superstar fans, and their timepieces.
Jay Z’s one-of-one Rolex
Outside of maybe Drake, no one contributes more colorfully to the watch discourse than Jay-Z. This column was basically born out of my inability to not write about Jay’s $2.5 million sapphire-case Richard Mille from jeweler Alex Todd. (Remember that name!) In November of last year, Hov sent out $40,000 Rolex Daytonas as VIP party invites. Then he wore a $2.2 million reversible Patek Philippe to Diddy’s 50th birthday bonanza.
But Jay doesn’t just reserve his watches for galas, award ceremonies, and milestone birthday parties for fellow rap moguls. Courtside at the Lakers game is an equally good opportunity to show off one of the most mythical timepieces in the universe. And back in March, just before the NBA season was suspended, Jay wore this strange-looking gold Rolex.
The origin story behind the watch is that in the late ‘80s watchmaker Franck Muller, who would soon go on to launch his own brand, took a relatively simple Datejust and furnished it with multiple complications. He installed a moonphase and perpetual calendar—complications that never, ever appear on a Datejust. It’s a one-of-one timepiece, or as they say in watch parlance, a pièce unique. The watch fell off the radar for a while before it popped up on the Instagram account of… Alex Todd. “Unique 1 of 1 Rolex made by Franc Mueller. Non before it non to come… [sic],” he wrote on Instagram. It’s not difficult to connect the dots from there and figure out how Jay ended up wearing this legendary Rolex courtside.
Trevor Noah’s Rolex GMT-Master II “Root Beer”
The Daily Show host has cemented himself as one of the most reliable watch obsessives in the game. Like any budding collector, he started with famous pieces, like the beloved Patek Philippe Nautilus and the iconic Rolex GMT-Master II he’s pictured wearing here. And like any real insatiable collector, he’s fallen down a rabbit hole and he can’t get out. Just a couple months after wearing this watch to the Lakers’ Christmas day game, Noah appeared at the Grammys in a blingy version of another soda-inspired “Pepsi” GMT that features 23 diamonds, 18 rubies, and 18 sapphires on the bezel alone.
Odell Beckham’s Richard Mille RM-67-01
Okay, so it’s not as exciting as wearing a Richard MIlle during the game, but Odell Beckham Jr. pulled out a very cool watch to wear to a game. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the super-fine gold watch, but the whole design was oriented around one single goal: making the piece as thin as possible. This Richard Mille “Extra Flat” led to some interesting design quirks, like the partially skeletonized dial, and the numerals that look as if they’ve been strung up like Christmas lights around the face. (The numerals are actually made of metal and mounted to titanium rails, but the other description sounds prettier.)
Flea’s gold Rolex GMT-Master II
The Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist isn’t typically a watch guy, so I was really excited to see one of our leading fit auteurs in this special Rolex GMT. The Submariner is one of the most recognizable and iconic watches ever made—but, not surprisingly, Flea found a model that stands out from the crowd. Bonus points here for matching the watch with his Lakers-fan outfit.
Young Thug’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
Slime Language. Slime Season 1, 2, and 3. “Slime Shit.” “It’s a Slime.” Sending live snakes to outlets to celebrate the release of a new album. This Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore. All of these things are interconnected. Young Thug has incorporated the idea of “slime”—Young Thug for a buddy, basically—into his universe, and that extends all the way to his timepieces. When you look at this highlighter-green Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore what’s the first word that comes to mind? It’s got to be slime, right?
Ric Flair’s bust down Rolex Day-Date
You don’t get a whole song from Migos member Offset and producer Metro Boomin’ titled “Ric Flair Drip” without delivering on the goods. The reigning heavyweight world champ of opulence hasn’t given up on the bling he was famous for in the ‘80s. Want to know what Ric Flair Drip looks like? Take one look at this bust-down Rolex Day Date with gem-set hour markers. Woo!
Jalen Ramsey’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore “End of Days”
Wow! Jalen Ramsey’s is not a watch we see out in the wild very often, if ever. This very special-edition Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore was made in collaboration with Arnold Schwarzenegger for his 1999 movie End of Days. “It’s the first Royal Oak Offshore that had a celebrity tie-in—it ushered in a whole new direction for AP,” Paul Boutros, the head of watches in America for Phillips auction house, told GQ in April. “He told AP, ‘I want the watch to have a black case and yellow numerals and hands, and sure enough, they did it. They made a limited edition of 500 watches.”
Collaborating with celebrities is now relatively standard procedure for AP, which has watches with folks like Jay-Z and LeBron James. However, the Los Angeles Rams cornerback went all the way back to the source of this trend with this watch.
Update: an earlier version of this article misidentified Flea’s watch as a gold Submariner. It’s a GMT-Master.