Made in tri-blend fabric, the T-shirts offer a soft hand.

Made in tri-blend fabric, the T-shirts offer a soft hand.


Basketball Player Alex Stepheson Aims For Slam Dunk With El Crew PE


The first El Crew PE T-shirt was inspired by Stepheson’s recreation-center league championship in 1997.

Alex Stepheson has shot hoops for the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies National Basketball Association teams as well as several overseas sports leagues. He has also started a clothing brand, El Crew PE, a label that doesn’t venture too far from his life on and off the court.

“Basketball has been the cornerstone of my life. It has taken me around the world. I built friendships with people from all walks of life. Whatever language they spoke, no matter their culture, everyone wanted to be part of a crew. Everyone wanted to be part of something. When you are an athlete, you have your team. When you are on a team, you have a crew. If there are 21 of us on a team, we want you to know that we support you. You are part of our crew.”

Stepheson started the Los Angeles–based T-shirt and hoodie line El Crew PE in 2019, selling as a direct-to-consumer brand on He’s devoted more time to the brand in 2020 because his last team, the Koshigaya Alphas in Japan, cut its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stepheson and Matthew Moses, the design and production manager who consults on El Crew PE, said that the T-shirts were intended to evoke the spirit of the basketball and sports lifestyle. Moses said that the T-shirts’ fabric, a tri-blend, also was intended to offer comfort to the touch.

“The garments are really soft. Alex was ahead of the curve when he wanted to make comfortable clothes last year. We put a focus on materials that are soft to fit his vision,” Moses said. Moses is the founder and chief executive officer of Apparel By SMG, a downtown Los Angeles apparel design and production agency that makes private-label clothing for clients such as Google, Facebook and YouTube. Apparel by SMG also produces a house brand called Mansfield Outpost.

Basketball practices were the inspiration for the first T-shirt produced by El Crew PE. The graphics on this heather-grey tee feature a hoop and a basketball and the logo El Crew PE, 1997 Div. Champs. Stepheson led his team to a youth-league championship in 1997 at Los Angeles’ Pan Pacific Park Recreation Center. For a prize, he and his team were given championship T-shirts.

“It inspired me to collect as many T-shirts as I could. It looked cool and felt like a rite of passage getting the shirt,” Stepheson said. T-shirts with sports themes followed. One T-shirt features a graphic of marathon runners. The marathon shirt is part of a trio of T-shirts named the Triathlon Set. Later this year, El Crew PE will be releasing a T-shirt with a bicycling theme and another with swimming graphics.

The T-shirt silhouettes also fit into Stepheson’s tastes. Growing up in the 1990s, when baggy clothes were the style for teenagers, Stepheson preferred a fitted look. As the kid who was always the tallest in his class, it was tough to find clothes that were his size.

“When you found something that fit really well, you had to buy it on the spot. You didn’t know if you’d find something that would fit again,” he said. Growing to 6'10" as an adult, he often visits tailors for made-to-measure clothes for suiting. He’s also had tailors customize his tees and hoodies to find an optimal fit.

Stepheson forecasted that his line would continue to be inspired by sports. “Sports have given me so much,” he said. “I look for ways where I can give back. If it is a clothing line that inspires someone to go into business, or if they see the shirts and say, ‘I want to go out on the court and shoot some hoops,’ these T-shirts can inspire and motivate. That’s the goal for me. Give the generation coming up the same feeling sports gave to me—learning life lessons and getting that feeling of accomplishment when you win a game.”