iHoopAround x Tattoos by Randy

This is a great interview with Randy Harris of Tattoos by Randy (as mentioned here last month). He lists all of the NBA players he’s tattooed over the years, it is a long and impressive list. A few highlights:

  • The first NBA player that Randy tattooed was Allen Iverson, and that relationship brought him a lot of business, reinforcing the notion that AI is the foundation of tattoos in the NBA, even if other players had them before him
  • Marvin Williams is the most regular NBA visitor that Tattoos by Randy gets, and he’s become so friendly with the staff at the tattoo shop that he actually tattooed an ST (for Stay True) on each of the staff members
  • Randy describes the three most common types of tattoos for NBA players as religious based, tributes to parents or grandparents, or basketball related. I’d also throw in hometown/state references

Really a great video, so much gratitude to iHoopAround. Also it was nice to hear the instrumental for "I’m Kurious" in the background…

PS the “clean” version of Travis Porter’s “Tatted Up” used in the beginning of the video really threw me off, I actually thought something was wrong with the video. Don’t let it discourage you!

Monta Ellis

Ellis is one of my favorites in the league. Things got pretty tough for him at the end of this year (and that season-ending concussion was one of the scarier injuries I’ve seen in a long time) but in the colder part of the winter I stayed up late for every single Warriors game, and they were some of the only ones I went back and watched a second time. A big part of that was Monta’s 4th quarter shooting, which I like because he’s creative and athletic and so ridiculously quick, but also because he’s so nonchalant about it. Strolling over to the free throw line like he didn’t just tie the game with four seconds left. Languidly tapping Acie Law’s hand while the whole rest of the team is jumping up and down screaming. He might as well be alone at Sunday morning on a playground. No big deal.

Recently both Ball Don’t Lie and Basketball Jones have reported on Ellis’ “new” tree tattoo. The thing is, the tattoo isn’t new. The earliest I saw the above photo was in January on Portland Roundball Society but I have a feeling it’s older than that. That’s a lot of ink to get mid-season.

The recent attention comes from the new photo of Monta that appears on the Tattoos by Randy myspace page. Randy is an Atlanta-based artist who I think has done more work for NBA players than anyone—Stephen Jackson, Josh Smith, AI, Lou Williams. He’s also Carmelo Anthony’s main guy. Here’s a photo of Randy and Monta fishing together:

more on Randy soon…


At the end of the 2010-11 regular season, there were 433 players in the NBA. 345 of these players are United States citizens, the other 88 represent 39 countries spread across 6 continents. Arranged by oversimplified regional groupings, the next few posts will examine tattoos geographically, concluding now with the United States. To view other regions, click HERE for Africa, HERE for Western Europe, HERE for Eastern Europe, HERE for the Americas, HERE for Asia/Australia, and HERE for the Middle East.

I guess the reason I started thinking about tattoos regionally is because of the 2003 book by Andrew Gottlieb In the Paint, which reported more than 70% of NBA players at that time had tattoos. I can only find 53% of NBA players today with tattoos, which means almost 100 current players would have to get tattoos to reach that margin. Given that my access is limited, and I’ve assumed players did not have tattoos if I couldn’t find any, my figure is probably low, but I’m still interested in the difference eight years makes.

With Rasheed Wallace retired, Iverson in Turkey, and Robert Swift playing in Japan, the early-2000s tattoo red flags have perhaps diffused in a way that shifts the spotlight or makes it a non-issue. David Stern thinks the era of tattoos will pass the way afros did, and it’s marginally notable that the last two #1 draft picks—John Wall and Blake Griffin—are both without tattoos. Perhaps more importantly, Wall says he won’t get tattoos because he doesn’t want to affect his endorsement opportunities. I’m not convinced there’s a relationship, but it feels like an idea that could gain momentum.

Anyway, as I was trying to think of reasons why there would be less tattoos, I thought about how much more international the league has become, and wanted to see if that made a difference. 203 of the 345 American players have tattoos, or 59%. That’s a higher figure than the league percentage (53%) but not by a lot. And while all of the regions surveyed have lower tattoo percentages than the overall average, only Africa is tattoo-free. The rest of the world has surprises like Marcin Gortat (Poland) or Gary Forbes (Panama). They’re not really even surprises, just more evidence that there’s no predicting where or what tattoos will show up next in the NBA.

Philadelphia Sixers, 2010-11

Tattoo percentage: 40% (6 players with tattoos, 9 without)

Obviously the presence of Iverson overshadows any tattoos happening at Wells Fargo Center. Rodman claims the title, but Iverson is the force that brought tattoos to the NBA, even Joakim Noah says so. These days Philadelphia has a below-average number of tattooed players, but they do have something no other team has: a tattooed head coach. As described by a recent Sports Illustrated profile, Doug Collins has a tattoo of his favorite bible verse (Proverbs 3:5-6) and the names of his four grandchildren on his chest.

Players with tattoos:

Tony Battie
Because he normally wears a shooter sleeve or even just an arm band (embarrassed?), it’s not really common knowledge that Battie had a tattoo of the Batman logo on his left arm. For an NBA.com chat, he explained the significance of the design: “I did that in college. All the guys used to call me “Bat” or “Big Bat”. I was a leading shotblocker in college, so I was battin’ down those shots, so the Batman thing just came with that.”

Antonio Daniels
The majority of Daniels’ tattoos are tributes to his brother Chris, who died suddenly in his senior year of college. On his left arm, Daniels wears a portrait of his brother meshed with a cross. Inked on his right arm is the dates of his brother’s birth and death, and over his heart, Japanese characters spelling out “In memory of my brother.”

Jrue Holiday  
It’s sad that Holiday doesn’t get to wear #21 for the Sixers (it belongs to Thad Young) since he has it tattooed on his back.

Andre Iguodala 
Iguodala discusses his tattoos in a youtube interview, which he really wants to get removed, maybe: “I might keep it, but this one I got to take off. I was young when I got these tattoos.”

Andres Nocioni
Nocioni has tattoos of a wolf and a bear, the latter of which is marked with his nickname, Chapu.

Marreese Speights
Speights has several tattoos on his arms, including his mother’s name on his forearm.

Lou Williams
Williams is clearly the most heavily tattooed player on the Sixers, enough so he doesn’t even register his teammates’ work, which I guess, by comparison, is pretty minimal. A 2011 interview saw him claim: “I’m probably the only guy with tattoos on our team, probably the only one with a little edgy personality, and that’s it. Outside of that, I think we’re a pretty square basketball team.”

Players without tattoos:

Craig Brackins   

Elton Brand  

Spencer Hawes   

Jason Kapono 

Jodie Meeks  

Darius Songalia   

Evan Turner 

Thaddeus Young

NBA tattoos

2013-14 NBA overall tattoo percentage: 55%
241 players with tattoos, 201 without [details]

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.