Tattoo percentage: 67% (10 players with tattoos, 5 without)
The Clippers had a decrease in tattoo percentage from last year.
Players with tattoos:
In 2008, Barnes founded the Athletes vs. Cancer foundation in memory of his mother, who passed away from lung cancer. In 2010, he added a portrait of his mother, framed by angel’s wings, to his many tattoos. As he explained to Tom Hoffarth of Inside So Cal, “this keeps her around.”
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.”
Bledsoe has tattoos along both arms.
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.”
Players from Seattle tend to have a lot of tattoos (Nate Robinson, Jason Terry, Terrence Williams) and Crawford is one of the heaviest. On his left shoulder is one of the dreamiest basketball-themed tattoos in the league: against a background of heavenly clouds, a hoop glows, with “Jamal” lettered across the backboard in Olde English.
Among Jordan’s many tattoos is a portrait of his grandfather on his stomach, added in 2012.
When it comes to tattoos, Odom keeps it simple: “My tattoos are just reminders of people who are close to me.”
Summers has both arms well covered, but it’s his first tattoo, acquired in high school, that he looks to for comfort: “‘It has my name on it,’ says his mother, Twana, a supermarket meat cutter who raised her three kids alone in Baltimore after her husband died when DaJuan was just 3. ‘And it has the names of [his sister] Regina and [brother] Malik. He says when things get tight, he grabs that tattoo.’”
In March of 2011, Turiaf began work on a new tattoo on his left arm: a phoenix rising from ashes.
Players without tattoos:
Tattoo percentage: 53% (8 players with tattoos, 7 without)
The Hawks go pretty classic, with a lot of R.I.P. tattoos, hometown tributes, some nostalgia, and a DMX reference. They have fewer tattooed players than last year, but some pretty respectable numbers overall.
Players with tattoos:
Rem Browne of Grantland did a great service by transcribing large portions of a 2008 public radio interview with fan favorite Ivan Johnson. In a particularly emotional segment, Johnson describes his mother’s death and his ongoing connection to her:
I talk to her every day. Little stupid stuff I see in the streets. I laugh with her, talk with her, a pillow that she had in the house that she used to sleep on, I keep that with me all the time. Wherever I go, I keep her obituary with me, just so I can see her face, so I won’t forget how she looked. Before she passed, I got her face tattooed on me, so I’ll never forget how she looked. And that means so much to me.
McGrady, who has suffered a lot of criticism from announcers and analysts, has a response on his right shoulder, just below a speeding basketball and his nickname. Against a curled scroll, a poignant bit of scripture: “AND EVERY TONGUE THAT SHALL RISE UP AGAINST THEE IN JUDGEMENT SHALL BE COMDEMNED—ISAIAH 54:17.”
In October of 2011, Teague posted photos of his full sleeves on twitter, representing his hometown of Indiana with the 317 area code, an Interstate 465 sign, and a skyline.
Williams is a regular customer at Tattoos by Randy with tattoos on both arms and across his chest.
Players without tattoos:
Tattoo percentage: 13% (2 players with tattoos, 13 without)
If I’m being completely honest, I am a pretty novice NBA viewer. I follow the ball’s movement almost exclusively, unable to see how the entire court is moving or recognize where the play is headed. I have a hard time rating defense unless it results in a turnover, the nuances of how one player shuts down another require an eye that I am too excitable to develop. My assumption is that most viewers are like that, which is why people gravitate towards fast teams—Showtime Lakers, Payton/Kemp Sonics, Believe Golden State Warriors—because they reward that kind of value system. That’s basically my favorite teams trajectory, I’m no better.
Which is why I’ve been surprised, and admittedly proud of how much I’ve enjoyed watching the Hornets this season, who got as much play as the Knicks and the Warriors for 2010-11. Unlike Monta’s playground shooting or Amar’e’s exuberance, New Orleans’ game doesn’t translate well to highlight reels. Their moments of brilliance are considered and subtle, a spectacle of patience that has countless analysts invoking the Training Day “this shit’s chess, it ain’t checkers” line about Chris Paul.
The Hornets are a slow team, something they got criticized for a lot in the playoffs. But their slow is measured, disciplined, not uncertain or tentative. You know at the end of a game when the losing team takes as long as possible to pick up the inbound pass so they can extend their time on the court? The Hornets do this almost every possession, every game. While they have a few players who don’t fit into this team model, in general they always project an attitude of careful control. It’s not like Monty Williams has to take a lot of timeouts to reel in the team or divert the momentum.
I never really liked that announcer’s cliche of “tighten the screws” until I saw it applied to New Orleans. It imparts the exact right combination of precision, excruciating pain, and satisfaction in a job well done. Their sense of control kept me from despair even when they were 10-20 points down. Without strong-arming, without Reggie Miller miracle speed, without even a visible show of heroics, the Hornets (at their best) are always capable of capturing the game. That winning streak in January saw it happen in six of the ten games, where the match was determined in the final quarter and won by only a basket or two. They were tight, hard fought games, sure, but they were also examples of how the Hornets can grab ahold of any opponent and take the win.
So how does this intersect with the fact that only two of the Hornets—franchise face David West and recent arrival Trevor Ariza—have tattoos? Is it an illustration of self-control=court-control? Gross, and totally defeating the point of this blog. Does it say something about Dell Demps’ bias against tattoos? I doubt it. The thing I keep thinking about is the recent trend towards criminals not getting tattoos, because tattoos makes them easier to identify. There’s something about hiding in plain sight, but something more powerful about the subversion of expectations, the next step thinking that can manipulate these expectations into victory—a final-second pass to Jarrett Jack for the win. I once saw Chris Paul get cornered by two defenders, and he bounced the ball out of bounds off one of their bodies so his team could reset the play. Maybe that’s some veteran move I didn’t know about or can’t recall having seen, but it is some serious crook play. There were a few moments of critical hate for Paul this season because of his attempts to draw charges, but in general I think people respect him, and the Hornets by extension. And especially after this playoffs series against the Lakers, no one thinks of him as a crook, proving once again that bad boys move in silence and violence.
Players with tattoos:
Among Ariza’s many tattoos are 5 designs dedicated to his younger brother, who died when they were both children. As described by a New Orleans Times-Picayune profile, these tributes are, “displayed on Ariza’s arms, chest and neck and include a sketch of Tajh’s likeness, clasped hands in prayer over Tajh’s name, and on the inside of Ariza’s left forearm, the words ‘Blood is thicker than water. I am my brother’s keeper. Rest in peace, Tajh. I miss you.’”
Towards the end of West’s junior year at Xavier, he announced that he would stay and finish his degree, rather than elect for the NBA draft. Shortly afterward, he got a tattoo of the school’s symbol, a capitol X, bordered by the text “My life my way” to demonstrate this commitment. As he explained to the Cincinnati Enquirer, “It’s to show some type of loyalty to the school because I came in as a freshman, and one of the things Coach (Skip) Prosser said to me was, if you do the things you’re supposed to do, then Xavier will do what they’re supposed to do, and you’ll be successful. Xavier has been the best place for me, and it’s where I’ve been able to establish my playing career. ‘My life, My way,’ is basically, I’m going to do things now that will be the way I feel they should go. It’s my life in the end. Nobody has to walk in my shoes. Nobody has to do what I do, but me.”
Players without tattoos:
Patrick Ewing Jr.
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.