Last week, the New York Post ran a story running through the tattoos of both New York teams. There are some nice details of designs on Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and CJ Watson. There’s also a telling quote from Randy Harris of Tattoos by Randy who reminds us that players will be held accountable for their tattoos so everyone puts a lot of thought into what they’re getting. The best part is a quote from Kenyon Martin about the tattoo reading “Bad Ass Yellow Boy” on his torso: “Down South, they call light-skinned people yellow. When I got to college, there was a song out by some guys from New Orleans called UNLV. They had made the song, and that was my theme song.”
Tattoo percentage: 60% (9 players with tattoos, 6 without)
The Knicks tattoo percentage decreased a bit over last year.
Players with tattoos:
Anthony caused a bit of controversy during the 2012 American League Division Series by rooting for the Orioles instead of the Yankees. When challenged by the New York Post about this allegiance, Anthony pointed to a tattoo of the Orioles logo on his arm and explained that he’d been a fan of the team since he was a child.
A long profile of Camby appeared on ESPN Boston earlier this year in honor of UMass retiring his jersey. The article mentions that Camby got his first tattoo—“a ball, a hoop, and ‘Mr. Camby’ on his left triceps”—following his sophomore season at UMass.
Chandler appeared naked on the cover of the 2012 “Body” issue of ESPN the Magazine. The photo revealed that Chandler has a section of the bible verse Joshua 1:9 tattooed on the right side of his ribcage: “Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Kidd’s rarely seen panther tattoo speaks to his longtime love of big cats: “I got this tattoo so long ago. All the way back to about the time I was drafted by the Mavericks. I got it done at a shop in the Bay Area (San Francisco). I just like tigers, panthers, cats in general. I have always wanted to own a panther.”
The Sports Illustrated Vault twitter account recently dug out an old photo of Martin in a Nets jersey revealing his usually-hidden “Bad Ass Yellow Boy” tattoo.
A 2010 report by the Orlando Sentinel talks through Richardson’s many designs, and includes his father’s take on his tattoos: “Why you want to write all over yourself? If you want to write, go write a book.”
In January of 2013, Shumpert revealed that he has a tattoo of cartoon character Johnny Bravo on his left arm, as detailed by Ball Don’t Lie.
The New York Times ran an exhaustive discussion of Smith’s tattoos in December of 2012, which featured his surprising confession: “I actually hated tattoos. I told myself I would never get like this.”
In February of 2012, Stoudemire’s older brother Hazell passed away. When Stoudemire came back from the funeral, he had a teardrop tattoo beneath his right eye. A clip from the forthcoming Stoudemire documentary “In the Moment” shows the player discussing his brother and the tattoo: “The reason I got the teardrop tattoo is because I’m forever crying inside.”
Players without tattoos:
No longer on roster:
Kurt Thomas: no
Rasheed Wallace: yes
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:
Tattoo percentage: 87% (13 players with tattoos, 2 without)
Wow. In the past few months (sealing the deal with their last-minute trade today), the Clippers have gone from a team with an average number of tattooed players last year to the team with the most tattooed players by a good margin. Strangely, their two marquee players are their only two players without tattoos.
Players with tattoos:
On Billups’s left shoulder is a tattoo of a crowned figure spinning a basketball on his finger. Surrounding the figure are the words “King of the Hill,” a reference to the Denver neighborhood Billups grew up in. In an IGN Sports interview, Billups described it as his favorite tattoo, and explained the significance: “My neighborhood back home is called Park Hill. It’s a hood thing. All of my tats mean something.”
While on the Wizards, Butler wrote on his blog about tattoos: “Like many other guys in the NBA, I’m big on tattoos too. I may not be a league leader there, though, because I have just four of them. The tat that means the most to me is the one on my left arm. It says “Rest in Peace, Kailo”. That’s my cousin who died in a car accident. She was like a sister to me. I grew up with her and although she’s no longer here, I keep her with me.”
One of the most heartbreaking tattoos in the league (or that I’ve heard of, period), Foye has a tattoo of his mother over his heart. Raised by his two grandmothers after his father died and his mother ran out on the family, Foye marked his 22nd birthday with this tribute to his absent parent. A 2006 interview painted yearning, not forgiveness as the inspiration for the design: “If my mom was here today, she would probably be the most important person in my life. I know how I treat my grandmother and I put my grandmother in her place on a pedestal. I just felt as if I needed something of her attached to me, so I just put her over my heart.” Think about that next time you boo him.
Jordan has a lot of text tattoos: the serenity prayer; Matthew 5:4-5; G.W.O.M. (which stands for God Watch Over Me); Philippians 4:13; “Don’t take wooden nickels”; and a text he wrote himself on his bicep. According to a Dime Magazine profile, he can’t help it: “I mean I see a lot of writing and things like that, that I can relate to and I’m not like, ‘Oh, I should get it tattooed on me,’ but I just kind of like them so much that I want to get it.”
“I have another tattoo here that reads: ‘God’s Plan, My will.’ That’s why I work so hard and care so much. Basketball is what got me out of the projects. It got my momma the house she never had, the car she never had.
“Nobody is going to get the best of me. You might score more points than me, but you’re going to know you were in a dogfight.”
Simmons has a tribute to his other brother, Tizoma, who died when Bobby was a junior in high school, tattooed on his right arm. When asked about the tattoo by The Journal Times, Simmons explained, “I think of him all the time. That’s why I had this (tattoo) done. That was the purpose for me getting this, so that he would never be forgotten.”
Young prepared for the 2010-11 season by having the word “FAITH” tattooed across his chest, a move he described in an interview: “‘It feels like a new birth. I’m just ready to take on any challenge. I’m trying to get tattoos and coming back totally new — a new Nick,’ Young said, flashing a grin, then flexing to show he has hit the weight room this summer to add another seven pounds of muscle. ‘I can stomach the big dogs this year.’”
Players without tattoos:
Can’t believe I missed this. Tattoo Time with Mike Tyson is a segment on Jimmy Kimmel where Iron Mike runs down celebrity tattoos. In the clip above, he covers Kobe Bryant, DeShawn Stevenson, and Kenyon Martin. He’s got punchlines for Bryant and Martin, but the DeShawn Stevenson bit is just kind of weird and unfinished. There are two other clips available online—one covers LeBron James, Marquis Daniels, and Chris Andersen and the other covers Stephen Jackson and Robert Swift.
Evan Turner’s Twitter confession last night had me revisiting Urban Ink Magazine. There’s a whole section of their website that you have to sign up to access, a lot of photos of Waka Flocka Flame and Chad Ochocinco. Not surprisingly, they’ve spent some time with the Denver Nuggets. Here are some highlights:
Al Harrington’s backpiece, featuring a tattoo of himself being carried by an angel. I like imagining that when he gets a new tattoo on his arms or chest he has to have a smaller version added to this one.
J.R. Smith’s right bicep
Kenyon Martin’s disturbing rosary
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.