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Leaving 'Em in Stitches : Malik Sealy Makes Statement With Fashion Design as Well as Looking Good for Clippers

December 26, 1994|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clipper guard Malik Sealy has a big name to live up to.

Sealy's father, Sidney, a bodyguard for Malcolm X, named his youngest son after the late Muslim leader, who was assassinated in 1965, six years before his son was born.

"Malik (Mah-LEEK) was one of Brother Minister Malcolm X's Muslim names (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz)," the elder Sealy explained. "Do you know what it means? It means king.

"A lot of brothers are named after him. He was very smart and self-taught."

Said Sealy's mother, Ann, "Malik wasn't aware of the whole story until someone blessed him (for his name) and he asked his father, 'How did I get this name?' "

Sidney Sealy, whose Muslim name is Suliaman, which means wise man, became a Muslim after he was introduced to Malcolm X and attended his mosque in Harlem.

"I'll be a Muslim till I die," he said.

A former Golden Gloves boxer, Sealy became one of Malcolm X's bodyguards. Although he was present when Malcolm X was slain at Harlem's Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 18, 1965, Sealy wasn't helping with security.

"It was a very horrible day," Sealy recalled. "To see someone that you respect go down like that.

"I wasn't on the stage (protecting Malcolm X) because he didn't want anyone on stage. The (police) that were supposed to be there weren't there. The bodyguards were there, but the police weren't on guard. They were downstairs. It was like it was a setup."

Sealy, 61, a New York City cab driver, instilled Muslim values, among them self-reliance, in his four children, Sydney, 31; Dessalines, 30; Amir, 25, and Malik, 24.

Malik Sealy formed his own clothing company--Malik Sealy XXI--after signing a reported $6-million, five-year contract with the Indiana Pacers in 1992.

"Before sports I was sewing," Sealy said. "When basketball came along, that's when I moved away from sewing. But my mother taught me how to sew at a young age. It was something my grandmother did. Everybody in the family learned to sew.

"My mother never just wanted us to do one thing. She had a saying that's it's an awfully poor rabbit that just has one hole. That's true about life. You have to have other avenues."

The business is run in New York by Sealy's mother, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, and his brother, Dessalines. Sealy says it is thriving.

Sealy, who designed the uniforms worn by the Pacers' women's dance team last year, designed a neckwear collection and a line of suspenders that are sold in about 250 upscale stores such as Bloomingdale's and Barney's. He eventually hopes to expand the line to include men's dress shirts and suits.

Although he has a design team, Sealy comes up with most of the concepts for his products and takes an active role in the business.

"My mother has been a seamstress all her life and she's been in the fashion business all her life," he said. "We always used to have unique clothes. People would go, 'Wow, where did you get that?' And my mother made them."

He wears expensive designer watches on both wrists so that he can keep up with his business.

"I have a West Coast watch and an East Coast watch," he said. "The right wrist is the right time and the left wrist is East Coast time. It's just a little fashion thing. Also for my business, it's easier to just look at this hand and see what time it is rather than look at it and subtract three hours. And I haven't seen a watch with two separate faces that I like."

Perhaps the Clippers' best dressed player, Sealy has had teammates seek him out for fashion advice.

Sealy has looked just as good on the court this season.

Sealy, who was acquired from the Pacers along with point guard Pooh Richardson and the rights to Nebraska swingman Eric Piatkowski for disgruntled point guard Mark Jackson and the rights to Greg Minor in a draft-day trade last June, averaged 20.3 points in his first six games as a starter.

The Clippers, who opened the season with 16 consecutive losses, played their best two games after Sealy moved into the starting lineup in place of guard Terry Dehere, who suffered a sprained right ankle in the Clippers' first victory of the season.

Although Dehere is sound, he hasn't been able to dislodge Sealy, who averaged 27.5 points in his first two starts.

Sealy scored 25 points in his first start as the Clippers defeated the Lakers by 25 points on Dec. 9 at the Forum. He had a career-high 28 points the next night as the Clippers forced the Seattle SuperSonics into double overtime before losing, 132-127.

A small forward for the first two years of his NBA career, Sealy has been more productive since Coach Bill Fitch switched him to shooting guard this season. Fitch even used Sealy at point guard in the exhibition season to improve his court awareness.

"I think he's got a much better chance of being a player in this league playing guard," Fitch said. "He's a guard. If he had to play small forward he would end up being a lesser role or a guy that's a mistake, drafted high and didn't play."

Sealy seems comfortable playing guard.

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