Tattoo percentage: 62% (8 players with tattoos, 5 without)
Animals make great tattoos—lions, tigers, bulls—all serious symbols, clear in their meanings. An even quicker path to pure signification is text, spelling out declarations, promises, and reminders. Players on the Magic tend towards one or the other, the same way they either shoot threes or put the ball inside for Dwight Howard. The fact that either strategy works for them is not too different from the fact that, regardless of their prevalence, animal tattoos and text tattoos tell a story really well.
Players with tattoos:
Allen has a tattoo of a bull on his shoulder blade.
The Washington Post website has a great video of Arenas talking through his tattoos. When they come to the tiger that covers most of his stomach, the interviewer asks “why the tiger?” to which Arenas replies: “That’s what I am a fierce beast, king of the jungle.” The reporter replies that many people believe that the lion is king of the jungle, but in Agent Zero’s usual enigmatic way, he replies simply, and definitively: “Tiger’s king of the jungle.”
Bass has tattoos on both arms, reaching from his shoulders to his forearms.
While still in college, Clark was the feature of a profile on the IMG Basketball Academy website that discussed the tattoo on his hand: “Me and my best friend from Jersey came up with BFAM (point to a tattoo on his hand). It means Brother From Another Mother. I heard about some NBA players with BFAM, and I’ve seen some people with it on their hat, but we were talking about this since we were young. All of my friends from the neighborhood who grew up together, we’ve all got the tattoo. We’re like brothers, and it’s just a sign of loyalty.”
Nelson has a lot to say about fear in his tattoos, addressing it in three different text designs as he listed in an NBA chat transcript: “I have one that says ‘King of My Kingdom’, one that says ‘Fear No Man’, I have one that says ‘Loyalty’, another that says, ‘Accomplish Everything Without Fear’, another says ‘No Fear’ and another that is in honor of my Grandmother. That’s about it.”
Reddick has several tattoos, all of which address his religion, sections of scripture on his torso and the word “faith” on his wrist. He discussed his thoughts about his own tattoos, and those of other players in the league, on his website in 2008: “Each one of my five tattoos represent something unique and special to me. Yes, I could have probably gotten rubber bands made with the word “faith” on them instead of having “faith” tattooed on the inside of my wrist. But the tattoo is permanent, just like my faith in Christ. It serves as a reminder everyday to believe in the power and the love of God. People that have tattoos are not part of some weird subculture nor are NBA players “thugs” because they have permanent ink on their bodies. I’ve seen plenty of tattooed NBA players who donate money and time to charity, or go to church every Sunday, or visit sick kids in the hospital. That being said, my new tattoo is a latin phrase that runs all the way down my ribcage. I’m sure y’all can figure it out.”
A 2010 report by the Orlando Sentinel got deep into the tragedy in Richardson’s life, his mother’s death from breast cancer and the shooting deaths of two of his three brothers (one of whom is memorialized in tattoo on Richardson’s forearm). The accompanying photo slideshow illustrates his “life’s storyboard [as] seen through his tattoos.” I love that he’s smiling and laughing in every picture, contradicting the heartbreak of the text.
A 2010 profile in the Phoenix New Times reported that Richardson has 26 tattoos, including his nickname (THA FACTOR), a grim reaper, the names of his family members, and a figure holding a basketball. According to an earlier Phoenix New Times article, none of these designs were chosen lightly, as explained by Richardson: “I don’t get tattooed unless I’m 100 percent sure.”
Players without tattoos:
2013-13 NBA overall tattoo percentage: 56% [details]
2011-12 NBA overall tattoo percentage: 55% [details]
2010-11 NBA overall tattoo percentage: 53% [details]
A player-by-player, team-by-team guide to tattoos in the NBA. It is not an attempt to document every tattoo of every player–rather it is an attempt to provide a series of tools for sorting overall tattoo statistics in the NBA alongside glimpses into tattoo trends. Click on any team name below for player details of that team:
Hawks - Celtics - Nets - Bobcats - Bulls - Cavaliers
Mavericks - Nuggets - Pistons - Warriors - Rockets - Pacers
Clippers - Lakers - Grizzlies - Heat - Bucks - Timberwolves
Pelicans - Knicks - Thunder - Magic - Sixers - Suns
Trail Blazers - Kings - Spurs - Raptors - Jazz - Wizards
Click HERE for a complete list of NBA players discussed on this blog.
Disclaimer: This info is collected completely anecdotally, mostly by watching games, but also through study of photos, interviews, and player profiles. It’s very likely that tattoos have gone unobserved or remain hidden, especially on non-superstar players. Every effort has been made to present the best possible information, but statistics should not be considered definitive. Please use Ask Me to share any relevant information.