And with good reason--it's part of changing the culture of the NBA. The fact of the matter is that in the recent Olympics and FIBA World Championship, the United States and its "baller" NBA players have been consistently humiliated by international competition because international talent, though still significantly less than what is found in the best American players, has caught up to a point at which it can excel through superior teamwork.
Because of this, the NBA--and American basketball in general--has a good deal of egg on its face, and most of the structural problems causing the NBA's increasing deficiencies are viewed--correctly, in my opinion--as owing to the glorification of "playground ball", hip-hop culture, and the escalation of violence and crime that NBA players are increasingly involved with.
Stern is instituting this dress code for the same reason that schools institute uniforms: to change the self-image of the players, and enhance their public image as well.
And it needs it, because "hip-hop" culture will not appeal to the fans in China, and what they see in Yao Ming. It will not appeal to Europe, which is following Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Sarunas Jaskevicius. And it will not appeal to South America, which is following Nene, Varejao, Ginobili and Oberto. To grow outside the U.S., and to regain the respect the U.S. used to enjoy in international competition, the culture and values of the NBA will have to change. And good thing, too.
And while I'm at it, I'll go ahead and make a statement on hip-hop culture while I'm at it: it's not good. There is no cultural relativism here. You won't see the posses of Britney Spears and Hillary Duff killing each other in a feud backstage, like we see all too often with rap feuds. You won't see any other form of music glorify violence against police and women nearly as much anywhere else.
Is this racist? You tell me. From my perspective, it wouldn't matter who was doing the glorification in question, or what color his skin is. What matters is the essence. Is rap as a musical form inherently bad? Is wearing chains and whatever those headpieces are called inherently bad? No. The problem comes with the association of these things with a culture--not a race, a culture--that has historically glorified violence and other forms of crime. And eliminating that image brings the NBA one step closer to what it should be--a global game, enjoyed by all.
And before I get more complaints than I otherwise would have: BUSINESS CASUAL IS NOT "WHITE" ATTIRE. IT'S UNIVERSAL ATTIRE. IT IS A GLOBAL STANDARD FOR POLITE AND FORMAL DRESSWEAR, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER IT STARTED IN EUROPE OR NOT. GET OVER IT.