Bleacher Report issued a great video this week where Gary Forbes talks through his favorite tattoos in the NBA. There are some nice bits of information scattered in his monologue. For example, I didn’t know that he was a Godparent for Al Harrington’s daughter. He also shows off his Brooklyn tattoo (above). Part one available below, part two comes out next week:
Gary Forbes may not be the most heavily tattooed player in the league, but he recently mentioned on twitter that he’s nearly done adding designs. No word on what the new/postponed design will be…
Tattoo percentage: 50% (7 players with tattoos, 7 without)
Raptors are in a rebuilding mode this year, and have fewer tattooed players than they did last year.
Players with tattoos:
Bayless described his massive backpiece as “a college mistake” and goes on to declare that he “regrets it everyday.” He should check in with his new teammate Jamaal Magloire about tattoo removal.
In 2008, Magloire had his “Mister Magloire” tattoo removed from his arm. “Not that there’s anything wrong with tattoos,” he explained to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “but, for me, this was the right time, the right choice.”
Players without tattoos:
No longer on roster:
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.
Tattoo percentage: 64% (9 players with tattoos, 5 without)
Denver has a reputation for being the most tattooed team in the league, and up until their massive mid-season trade, they did. The February shake-up that sent Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman, and Shelden Williams to New York and brought Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Ray Felton, Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos to Denver traded five tattooed players for two. Before the trade, the Nuggets had 12 players with tattoos and two without, barely edging out the Lakers and Knicks for most tattoos. After the trade, Denver doesn’t even stand in the top five (there are six teams with more tattooed players).
Regardless of numbers, it’s interesting to consider the impression of the Nuggets as most tattooed, which may go hand-in-hand with their other reputation, the one that earned them the nickname the Denver Thuggets. Obviously there’s a tone set by Kenyon Martin’s trash talk and J.R. Smith’s all-highlights no-rudiments bravado. But thinking about the Nuggets’ tattoos you also have to consider Al Harrington’s unpredictability and Chris Andersen’s sideshow ridiculousness. It’s nice to think that tattoos may exit the endless conversation lamenting the lack of fundamentals, the prevalence of dunking, the lost art of passing and just become an occasionally-exciting side note to the game. Bill Simmons seems to think so: “Because of their phenomenal collection of tattoos, no team has ever been more fascinating to watch in HD — which makes it doubly funny that they play in Denver, the one city in which people would absolutely get stoned and watch a basketball game just to marvel at tattoos in HD for 150 minutes. I’m telling you, there is MAJOR karma going on here.”
Players with tattoos:
The Birdman’s transition from anonymous crewcut dude to mohawked warrior is well documented, and he’s created enough of an identity through his tattoos that people who couldn’t care less about basketball know all about this second squad forward.
I have a real soft spot for Chandler stemming from his heart and his bravery during the Isiah Thomas dark years for the Knicks. He always had some kind of surprise for the crowd, even if sometimes it was just a new angle on one of his tattoos. Apparently other Knicks fans agreed, and when Chandler had a blog on the Knicks site, questions about his tattoos vastly outnumbered any others, and he dedicated an entire blog entry to discussing them. One of the weirder ones in the list, even though his nonchalance makes it sound pretty casual, is his eyeball tattoo: “On my hand I have a picture of an eye with the words ‘All is Well’ underneath. It’s supposed to be an angels eye that watches over me, protects me and lets me know that all is well.” That’s a lot to ask of a tattoo. Chandler deserves it.
Also notable: the full-back portrait of X-Men villain Juggernaut.
Has tattoos on both shoulders, including a writhing dragon on his right side.
At the beginning of 2009, Forbes was an undrafted UMass product with a handful of tattoos on his arms. By the end of 2010, he had notched his first start in an NBA game, and had his previously isolated designs woven together into two full sleeves, heavy on the stars.
Well hidden by his jersey, Gallinari has a massive Armani logo tattooed on his ribs, borne of a connection deeper than his Italian nationality: “Armani Jeans is one of my sponsors—this tattoo is the Armani Jeans Milano team’s logo. When I go in a store, I take all the clothes I want. Mr. Armani and I are close. He came to town for Christmas, and we went to dinner with my parents.”
Among Harrington’s many tattoos is a great snarling wolf over his heart with the words “Killer Instinct.” Bonus humor points: the “veni vidi vici” tattoo on his collar is often misread as saying something about weed.
After joining the Nuggets, Lawson got a full sleeve tattooed on his left arm.
Few NBA tattoos have gotten as much attention as Martin’s neck work, which began as the lips of his then-girlfriend Trina and since their breakup has been covered by a crown.
There’s been some debate about who has more tattoos, Smith or Andersen, but Gary Forbes says it’s Smith for sure. Since Smith is one of the most tattooed players in the league, it follows that he’s had his designs well documented. I think this profile from Dime Magazine which covers both his Yankees-flipping “Young Money” neck tattoo and his “married to the game” ring finger NBA tattoo (which includes “I Do” in script) best covers the spectrum of his work.
Players without tattoos:
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
Hornets - 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.