What’s the deal with NBA players and Tattoos?

If you happen to be a basketball connoisseur and are often found glued to the television screen with nails buried into the edge of your couch in anticipation of the winner, watching a NBA game, you may have noticed a lot of players’ bodies to be covered in tattoos. What is this exactly about? Find out in this article.

Tattoos as a form of expression

Tattoos as a form of expression

Tattoos, for those of you who have them, are often viewed as an art form, used to express one’s inner self. Without a doubt, tattoos can be seen as a good means to  provide a deeper, analytical reflection of one’s life, whether it be preferences, stories, interests, beliefs, without the usage of verbal words.

Folks out there reading this who possess sufficient tattoo knowledge may understand where we are coming from. They are able to tell a ton about someone’s life just by looking at their tattoos as tattoos, like we said, are often used to express one’s interests, beliefs, etc. They can kind of serve as a way of communication without actually having to talk. Do you get what we mean?

Nevertheless, since we are talking about basketball players here, does it also bedazzle or confuse you when you are watching the NBA league and a majority of the players have inked bodies?

It can be said without a doubt that the nature of the NBA uniform, with just a mere vest and a pair of shorts, leaves a lot of blank skin space for the audience to see. And is actually kinda perfect to show off some tats.

A lot of the time, players invest a lot of their time and money in getting presentable tattoos that may help them show this space off with a tad bit more of style. Of course, we in no form or shape mean that the players get tattoos, just because they have a lot of skin to show and they think that it looks better with a bunch of tattoos.

Some of the players may already have these tattoos before the question of playing in the league comes up, and some may not get any at all, yet there still may be some players that treat this availability of extra space as a method to showcase their latest tat.

Who started it all?

Even if it may seem as if heavily tattooed sleeves or big tattooed leg patches have turned to become a part of the basketball culture, there must have always been someone who stepped onto the bandwagon first right? Someone did do it first, so who was it?

Dennis Rodman, the real trendsetter.

In spite of the fact that we do have a vague idea of who gave rise to this trend, it still is naturally a little difficult to tell exactly who it was because after all, it could have always been the case of getting tattoos, yet not showing them to the audience.

Hence, it may have been years and years, and players and players with tattooed pieces, before someone decided to show them off to the public and make it a common aspect of basketball. And that man is Dennis Rodman.

Prior to that, however, tattoos did not hold the status that they hold in today’s world. They were looked down upon and people were oftentimes disgusted at them as if they were a serious taboo or even worse, a sin. It was probably this reason that a lot of players before Rodman intentionally chose to get tattoos in places which could be easily hidden by uniforms and the public eye could not see them in order to avoid criticism or the risk of any defamation.

Rodman’s love of standing out.

Of course, it can be guessed that Rodman took the path of choosing to use his body in order to express himself, an act not very common at the time; regardless of what light he would be thrown into as a result of it.

And as the science of trends goes, other players followed into Rodman’s footsteps until tattooed bodies became a staple of the basketball world as they are seen today.

The rulebook when it comes to tattoos

Even though we agree that NBA players have it the best with this tattoo business, yet they are still subjected to some serious rules regarding it by the league itself. Of course, there is a price to be paid for everything. And disobeying the NBA tattoo ‘rulebook’ resulting in fines is the price that its players have to pay.

Corporate logos, the real devil

Surely some NBA players have displayed a few fairly weird and displeasing tattoos from Michael Beasley’s pair of glasses on his back to the tattoo chaos on Caron Butler’s shooting arm. However, there is something that has always put off authorities when it comes to players getting tattoos.

And that is the infamous and equally dangerous for careers, corporate logos.

Surely, tattoos are all romanticized and it is believed that they possess some sort of deep past stories, however, these corporate logo tattoos are extremely despised by the authorities.

Corporate tattoos as a form of free advertising.

It is an extremely strict rule that players are to not get any tattoos that represent brands or companies that are not linked with the NBA. These kinds of tattoos are considered to be commercial and promotional in the NBA’s handbook of tattoo rules and if a player makes the mistake of getting one (mind you, a lot of them have) then they are to pay heavy fines to the association.

And there is valid reasoning behind this. The NBA is perhaps the most renowned basketball league that there is, and with the popularity of such a league, comes the aspect of advertising. Advertising does not come free, in fact, companies have to pay a whopping billions of dollars in order to secure a position on the list of advertisers.

Hence, it goes without saying that when players show up with logos belonging to companies that have nothing to do with this ‘list’, the companies who have in fact paid so much money get offended because of other companies getting advertising space (the player’s body, of course) completely free of cost!

The pre-eminent faces of NBA’s tattoo culture: the most heavily tattooed NBA players.

The trend of getting tattoos in the NBA has become so common now that it does not even seem right to be calling it a trend. It has more likely turned into a sort of a ritual for the NBA stars. So common that whenever you are watching a NBA game, we can tell for sure that whoever is on the tv screen has at least one tattoo. We think you get the idea when we mean it is a ritual now.

As we talk about NBA players getting tattoos, we surely have to discuss which players have the bodies with the most inked pieces.

If we talk about general statistics, a lot more than half of all the NBA players that there are have at least one piece of ink covering their body. And we are talking a lot more than half.

But if we have to go into a little more detail of the whole deal, and compare our players on the basis of their inks, then here is a list of the 10 most heavily tattooed players in the NBA as of right now. We say as of right now because we are damn sure that there must be some player who is getting their newest tat made right now in this very moment. It never ends, you know?

Coming out on top, Chris ‘Birdman’ Anderson

Going with the nickname ‘Birdman,’ Chris Claus Anderson pops at the top of the list when it comes to the most tattooed players of the NBA.

Even though Chris has retired from the courts of NBA since 2017, he is still considered as a tattoo icon in the league’s history. Anderson has played 16 seasons of the NBA with 5 different teams and is definitely considered a shining star of the league. Even though he has bid farewell to the NBA, he still plays competitive football.

Anderson had such a large number of tattoos that they have now transitioned into becoming a symbol of his identity coupled with his signature mohawk and beard. His arms, chest, and neck are completely covered in ink.

His arms are covered in colorful tattoos, ranging from birds, skulls, and even prominent quotes and messages.

Surely he is a tattoo lord and of course, we must bow down to him!

Runner up goes to R. Smith

Second in line of the most tattooed NBA players is J.R. Smith. Even though he last played in 2018 for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he has played for a total of 5 teams during the period of 2004 to 2020.

Smith has a total of mind boggling more than 70 tattoos all over his body. This man is literally full of tattoos. We are sure he has lost count by now. His tattoos spread close to his face and we are certain that there is hardly anymore space for more on his body.

When we talk of tattoos revolving advertising, Smith is one of the notable players who found themselves in scandal after getting the logos of corporates tattooed on their bodies. For Smith, it was his giant ‘Supreme’ tattoo on his leg. The NBA authorities were so infuriated at it that they went as far as asking Smith to remove the tattoo or cover his leg otherwise he would be fined every single game that he plays.

Smith’s tattoos are surely some of the best ones we have seen. From quotes, to symbols, to lifelike portraits of family members and even Jesus, Smith is someone who definitely knows how to do it right in the tattoo game.

In at third is Kevin Durant

The third man with the most heavily tattooed body in the NBA is Kevin Durant. Also known as perhaps one of the richest players in the league, Durant flaunts a great range of beautiful pieces of ink all over his body.

There are two massive tattoos covering his left leg, with rap legend Tupac Shakur stretched across the calf and Rick James gracing his lower thigh. That makes two legendary musicians and confirms that Durant is a die-hard music fan as he pays so much respect for these musicians that he chose to imprint their faces on his body. It is said that his Tupac tattoo links to the problems faced by African American men because Tupac actively spoke against these problems. Rick James also stood up for freedom, hence his tattoo may be a symbolism for the struggle to attain freedom.

A prolific NBA player, star, and also a tattooed legend. We love Kevin Durant!

Monta Ellis, Basketball USA

The winner of the most improved NBA player in 2007 and also Mr.Basketball USA in 2005, Monta Ellis is another prominent member of this heavily tattooed bandwagon. There is a humongous tattoo of a tree that spreads all over his chest. A message of “Family First” graces the top of this tattoo which makes Ellis’s love for his family evident because it is a homage to his family line. The tree is decorated with unique ornaments including a child’s face, an angel, and more which are probably symbols for something important in his life or family. His back too is so covered with ink that there is hardly any negative space left for us to see his bare skin.

Retiring in 2017 from the Indiana Pacers, Ellis played 12 seasons for the NBA and is now considered as one of the most heavily tattooed players in its history.

The middleman, Wilson Chandler

Standing right in the middle of this list, Wilson Chandler is also a prominent player of the National Basketball Association. Wilson boasts an insanely impressive collection of tattoos all over his body and they all surely mean a lot to him.

One of his most noteworthy tattoos is his daughter’s face right on his chest followed by astonishing doodles, quotes, symbols and portraits all over his arms, neck and even hands.

While many players of his time have already retired from the league, he is one of the oldest NBA players on the scene. He currently plays for the team of Brooklyn Nets and has been able to secure positions in various renowned teams in the basketball world.

In at number six is Kenyon Martin

Coming in at sixth is Kenyon Martin. Kenyon Martin started his career with the New Jersey Jets in 2002 and ended it with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2015.

Of course, he is also known as one of the most heavily tattooed players in the National Basketball Association. Throughout his career in the basketball world, he has managed to bag a lot of notable positions and statuses. Another player with a baby face tattooed on their body. Martin sports a tattoo of his son’s face on his left bicep which is probably his best piece. Other than that a big Grim Reaper tattoo, the quote “Bad ass yellow boy” on his chest, a flirty pair of red lips at the back of his ear, and a giant back piece are some of his other striking inks.

The retired star, DeShawn Stevenson

A position well deserved, DeShawn Stevenson is an intensely tattooed NBA player. He even became the NBA champions in 2011 while playing with New Jersey Nets. He, however, spent most of his NBA career playing for the Washington Wizards before he retired in 2013. If we remove our eyes from his outstanding basketball career, he is also a player who most often found himself in scandal.

From being convicted of statutory rape to starting a feud with LeBron James, there was always something peculiar surrounding this tattooed star. Of course, his tattoos have nothing to do with these things, we just wanted to give you some fun facts, lol.

The Russian sensation, Andrei Kirilenko

Although Andrei Kirilenko largely played for the Russian League, however he became famous for his stunning tattoos during the time he spent playing in the National Basketball Association.

The gigantic tattoos gracing his back is something that has to be seen in order to be believed because it is just unbelievable. He also became the NBA All-Star in 2004, hence it is clear that not only was he a tattoo legend, but also a great player.

A superstar, Chris Bosh

This two time NBA champion also has a rightful place in this list as well. He played for the Toronto Raptor from 2003 to 2010 and for the Miami Heat from 2010 to 2017. That is a fairly long playing period and during it he was able to become one of the most heavily tattooed men in the National Basketball Association.

The massive tattoo covering his back is impressive, yet confusing AF! In order for you to get a better picture of what we mean, we will elaborate. There is a Zeus-like figure, a tree, an eagle, musical notes, a skull, a woman holding a skull and the Roman Colosseum.

Yeah, talk about chaos.

This stuff is stupefying. And it apparently took around 40 long hours to make! This man’s determination and patience are out of this world!

The undying legend, Kobe Bryant

Perhaps one of the most famous and one of the best players of the National Basketball Association. He played for as long as 20 seasons in the NBA in the prolific team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Apart from being a literal legend of the basketball world, he is also one of the most tattooed players of the league. Kobe Bryant won the championship a mind blowing 5 number of times and earned a wide range of significant titles on the sidelines.

When it comes to his tattoos, well, it will not be wrong to say that he put his thoughts on his sleeve in the form of tattoos on his whole right arm. One of the most impressive ones is perhaps his wife’s name ‘Vanessa’ grading his bicep along with a pair of angel wings. Interestingly enough, Bryant got this tattoo in an attempt to men relations with his wife and declare his love for her after he found himself tainted by the allegations of sexual harassment. His love for family seems to continue down his sleeve as the names of his three daughters stand there, inked on him forever. Under the angel wings, is the tattoo “Psalm XXVII” which gives rise to the assumption that even though he rarely showed it, Bryant was indeed a man of faith.

As we all may know, this gem died in a plane crash in 2020 along with one of his daughters; which blew this remarkable star of a player out. Nevertheless, he lives in our hearts forever.

The conclusion

Oh well, now you know why your favourite NBA player seems to be covered in ink, scurrying through the court as you sit on your couch, bedazzled by their impressive display of tattoos.

Whether it be a matter of trend, tradition, or ritual, tattoos have transitioned into becoming a significant symbol of NBA culture and are more analytically seen as the players choice of expression when it comes to life events, choices, and interests.

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