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NBA Players Tattoos, and the NBA Fashion Culture

Updated on April 11, 2014

NBA Tattoos - Birdman

The Social Media Generation

A little over decade ago, when Allen Iverson sported his neck tattoo, there were only a handful of players sporting some edgy ink. But as times have changed and media seemingly captures our every move (through Facebook, Twitter, etc)....more and more athletes are showing off their ink.

While tattoos in general have become more "socially acceptable" (claimed by those with tattoo's) it is becoming more of the rarity to see an athlete without a tattoo, than one with one. Tattoos and athletes has become the norm. While in football, it may be hard to tell....in Basketball, where players are sleeveless, its hard to hide. Let's take a look at some of the more prominent ink in the league.

Chris Andersen Neck Tattoo

Chris Andersen neck tattoo

Arguably the most prolific of ink-men in the NBA. Seeing serious minutes for the champion Miami Heat, Chris is front and center for basketball. What fans probably most equate Chris with however, is being the guy with all the tattoos...most notably, his wrap around neck tattoo.


One thing about Chris though....is that his attitude and personality are coming across in his ink. The word "Free" is clearly visible on his neck, as is his spirit on the court. With Chris, it's hard to tell if he'd have these tattoos if were broke and not center stage. I tend to think he would...that is some serious tattoo commitment.

JR Smith

Next to Chris Andersen's tattoos, would have to be JR Smith. This guy is seriously inked. On his darker skin, they don't show up as noticeably as Chris's does, but without his shirt on, he clearly went all-in on the ink. Good thing he plays a good game, as this level of commitment is tough to beat.

JR Smith tattoos

Dennis Rodman Tattoos

the original bad boy
the original bad boy

Marbury's head tattoo

It would be unfair to say it's "the new guys", without highlighting some of the "old guys". Dennis Rodman, and Stephan Marbury sported some ink back in their playing days. With Dennis, it exemplifies his wild lifestyle, while with Marbury....he's tatttooed his "brand" on his head. This is a little bit self-indulgent don't you think?


Some Statistics:


As of the end of the 2013 season....56% of players in the NBA had tattoos. With 80% of the Atlanta Hawks players being inked, followed by 73% for Brooklyn and Denver each. The New Orleans Pelicans, and Sacramento Kings had the fewest players inked with only 30%.


Why is it so popular?

It's hard to say. Is it youth?, is it the money, the attention? We live in an age where everything is captured on video or in a picture for the world to see.

Whole segments of the population do stupid things to get "hits" or "likes". Taking "selfies" or other silly pictures to draw attention.....why? for those few fortunate souls...they can monetize it. Take Perez Hilton (play on Paris Hilton), who rose to fame, stardom and wealth simply by capturing the silly things celebrities did...even taking the name after the first generation reality star - Paris Hilton.

Others have followed in his footsteps....almost everyone 'watched" the Gangham Style You-Tube video, or "What does the fox say?". All pointless entertainment, but things that have garnered literally the attention of hundreds of millions of people.

Take an average website with 10,000 hits a day. Ad revenue alone brings in several hundred dollars..... multiply that times 50, 100 if enough attention is drawn.

Basketball players are no different. They have a very short portion of their lives to make enough money and build a brand to last them a lifetime. Sure you see ex-players as broadcasters, or in front office jobs, but very few end up with that type of longevity.

Is it good for the game?

It's hard to tell if the 'culture' and fashion of the NBA does anything to its ratings, followers or viewers. The older fan, probably doesn't recognize the style of play compared to the Larry Bird, or even further, the Wilt Chamberlain days....so they may have lost interest simply due to the evolution. There are some conservatives out there who think the NBA is a bunch of street thugs and have disassociated themselves from the game. On the flip side, some are drawn to the culture and hip-hop like atmosphere that most stadiums provide on game-night.

All and all, it'll be the players who have to live with their choices.....like everyone who has inked up. While it may be 'cool" now....like the ol' cliché....how will they like that neck tattoo when their 60, 70, 80...

I think there is a large segment of this population who is going to look quite foolish once their youthful glow starts to fade.

What do you think?

Is the NBA tattoo craze cool, or foolish

See results

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