Duke star Jared McCain & his painted nails are heading to the NBA

Duke star Jared McCain & his painted nails are heading to the NBA

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Jared McCain

Caleb Williams and his painted nails were selected No. 1 overall last week in the NFL Draft. Now the question is, will Jared McCain follow suit?

The Duke standout recently declared for the NBA Draft, following an exceptional freshman season. It didn’t take him long to etch his way into the Blue Devils record books, tying Zion Williamson’s freshman scoring record in a single game and draining the most 3-pointers in a contest as well. McCain shined during the NCAA Tournament, making March Madness history with 30 points and 0 turnovers.

While McCain is only 20 years old, it’s commonplace for freshman stars to enter the NBA Draft. This year, the top five projected picks are all 18 or 19 years old. McCain is expected to be selected somewhere in the middle of the first round. His scouting report touts his playmaking prowess:

McCain is a high level guard prospect who projects as a possible lottery to mid first round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. He’s one of the best perimeter shooters in the draft class and can get smoking hot from downtown. He shoots the ball with a ton of confidence, has a quick release, deep range and a shot that will translate to the NBA level.

McCain first arrived on our radar early this year, when he showed off his holiday nail choice. The McDonald’s All-American says he started painting his nails a couple of years ago, and hasn’t stopped.

“I mean, at an early age I’ve always been told to just be myself, like I’m always just gonna be myself,” he told Complex. “As for the painted nails, I saw it during [lockdown] and I just started doing it. I never saw anything wrong with it like. I understand girls do it. I understand men have started to do it a little more recently, but it was just something I saw and I like to get manicures and pedicures. I take care of my body.”

As one can surmise, McCain is the quintessential Gen Z athlete. Armed with nearly 4 million followers on TikTok and Instagram, the California native is already building his brand. He enjoys an NIL valuation (name, image and likeness) of $1.4 million, which ranks him 13th among college athletes and second among men’s basketball players, only behind LeBron James’ son, Bronny.

Last month, McCain announced a deal with the beauty brand Sally Hansen, thanks to his fabulous mani pedis. When he revealed the partnership on Instagram, he was unapologetic about his flamboyant flare.

“I think everyone should do self-care for themselves. For me, it’s nail painting,” he said. “I’m sorry if that offends any of you guys… I thought it looked nice and I know a lot of people disagree. A lot of people don’t like it. I’m just going to be myself and do what I think looks nice.”

McCain also enjoys a partnership with SKIMS, the shape wear company founded by Kim Kardashian.

The sharp-shooter uses Instagram to promote himself, and TikTok as a means to showcase his fun-loving personality. Look no further than his March Madness anthem: “Peace and Love (on the Planet Earth).”

Taken from the Cartoon Network animated series, Steven Universe, the cheery tune depicts one of the main character’s journey towards accepting her new life on Earth. The character in question, Peridot, is ace. The overall show itself is quite queer-coded as well. 

Following a group of gem-based aliens, Steven Universe depicts characters with multiple orientations and gender identities. Show creator Rebecca Sugar, who’s bi, used the program as a template to introduce LGBTQ+ themes to young audiences. 

“Not only does the fantasy/sci-fi series include a range of recognizably queer and nonbinary characters, it has also featured a [gay] wedding,” writes the LA Times

In short, Steven Universe might be the gayest cartoon that’s ever aired on a mainstream network. And McCain picked one of the show’s signature songs as the soundtrack of his spring.

Oh, the insecure bros are probably shaking in their boots…boots!

It’s apparent that McCain’s teammates embrace his creativity. They were co-stars in his TikTok videos all season long, clowning around with him from the Sweet 16 all the way to the Elite 8.

There is a history of male basketball stars flouting gender norms and embracing their unique identities. Perhaps there’s no greater example than Dennis Rodman, who flaunted black lingerie on the cover of Sports Illustratedwore drag at the MTV music awards and showed up to a book signing in a wedding dress.

Rodman was a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ people decades ago, when weren’t many public allies in the world of male pro sports.

But still, figures like Rodman have traditionally been the exception in elite male sports. Athletes like McCain are changing that. It’s also interesting to note his personality shined at Duke, where players from previous eras seldom wore headbands.

But McCain broke up the elite private schools conservative archetype, and his irreverence has only increased his name recognition. We can’t wait to see his lewks, and nail polish, at next month’s NBA Draft.


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