NBA Ink: Ranking Chris Anderson and the 20 Worst Tattoos In the League
It was a Sunday night in March of 1996 when my phone rang. It was my brother-in-law, who had a few more drinks in him than usual, calling to wish me a happy 18th birthday.
The rest is history.
Minutes after hanging up, I took a box cutter to a pair of Purdue University basketball shorts and cut out the train logo that rested in its dazzle fabric. My brother-in-law picked me up and took me to some strange guy's basement a few blocks away.
I would spend the next four hours getting my first tattoo; that train logo etched into my right shoulder, to represent my nickname, A-Train.
Quite silly in retrospect, but at least it was something meaningful and a bit unique.
A few years later, around the year 2000, tattoos went mainstream. This art of decorative body modification, historically frowned upon as being representative of criminal or "lowlife" culture, became a widely accepted artistic form of expression. Everyone was getting not just one, but several (I got two more).
Including pro athletes.
Of course, because baseball, football and hockey players wear uniforms and equipment that cover most of their bodies, it was mostly in the NBA where the general population was exposed to tattoos on a daily basis.
It was in the NBA where the subconscious association between sports and tattoos started.
Today, having tattoos is practically a prerequisite to being a pro athlete. Hell, it used to just be Dennis Rodman. Now, there are thousands of Dennis Rodmans out there.
Tattoos on faces and hands, full sleeves, fingers, necks, legs—you name it. Tattoos of skulls, guns, tear drops, dollar signs, dice—what the hell is going on?
The NBA is increasingly looking a lot like prison ball.
At this rate, don't be surprised the day David Stern replaces tank tops with tee-shirts.
In the meantime, let's take a look at the 20 worst, most awfully heinous, ridiculous and offensive tattoos in the NBA today.
20. Deron Williams' Panther On His Right Arm
Walk into any tattoo parlor in America, grab the first design book you see, turn a page or two and you'll come across the panther stencil Deron Williams used on his arm.
Point guards are supposed to have vision and creativity. The fact Williams picked the same tattoo at least 100,000 other people already have is truly disappointing.
19. The "K" On Lamar Odom'S Right Hand
Oh, how cute? "His and Her" hand tattoos for newlyweds Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian.
Looks like too much time in Miami and L.A. has softened Odom, who hails from the same Queens, New York neighborhood as rapper 50 Cent.
18. A Pair Of Eyeglasses On Michael Beasley's Back
The "Supercool Beas" part I actually like. But what's up with the pair of eyeglasses hanging from it?
Is Michael Beasley trying to say he goes from Clark Kent to Super Beasman?
The angel wings and "God's Son" tats are almost as played out as tribal bands.
17. The "WB" On Carmelo Anthony's Left Shoulder
Did you hear the one about the basketball player who tattooed the Warner Bros. logo on his shoulder to rep his rough West Baltimore upbringing?
I wonder if Carmelo Anthony has a "Free Elmer Fudd" shirt hanging in his closet.
16. The Jumpman Logo On Marcin Gortat's Right Calf
Ok, I get it—Marcin Gortat grew up in Poland idolizing Michael Jordan and American basketball. He decided to get the iconic Jordan "Jumpman" logo tattooed on his calf.
What I don't understand, and what makes this tattoo ridiculous, is why this particular "Jumpman" logo depicts Jordan as a no-neck-having fat guy.
15. Eddy Curry's "Bruised Never Broken" Message On His Collarbone
Considering Eddy Curry has spent 35 percent of his career on the shelf, including 205 of his team's last 215 games (and counting), I think the New York Knicks might be able to sue the "Bruised Never Broken" star for false advertising.
Really, the tattoo should read: "Useless Never In Shape."
14. Richard Jefferson's "RJ" Tattoo On His Left Shoulder
Seriously, dude, who did your tat, a second-grader? At least lie and say Elroy Jetson did it.
13. The Mess On Caron Butler's Right Arm
Figuring out what's on Caron Butler's shooting arm requires a round-table discussion. I don't think Butler even knows what it is.
Seems like a cover-up of an earlier piece that featured a great concentration of dark ink. A skull is visible, but the rest looks like a blob of black. Is that a mushroom? The Grim Reaper's robe?
No clue. But it's ugly as hell.
12. An Unidentifiable Creature On Raja Bell's Left Arm
I'll Paypal you $5 if you can tell me what's above the horrible "Raja" tattoo on Mr. Bell's left bicep.
But just so you know, "bat-faced stegosaurus griffin" isn't an acceptable answer.
11. The Wild Cat On Gilbert Arenas' Stomach
Then I saw a liger with a flat-top haircut.
What exactly is Arenas trying to say here—he has the appetite of a lion?
This insane tattoo doesn't rank lower only because it's concealed.
10. Marcus Camby's Chinese Characters On His Right Arm
For the record, if you're not Chinese, don't speak, read, or write Chinese, or haven't traveled to China, or studied the country extensively, you have no business getting a tattoo in Chinese characters.
If you are, like Marcus Camby, one of the many moronic followers who fell victim to this late 90s trend of tattooing a Chinese word or phrase on your body, save yourself from further embarrassment and visit a cosmetic surgeon.
On his right arm, Camby has two huge Chinese characters that translate into English: "strive to be the best" and "clan."
Next time just get the Wu-Tang logo if you're such a fan of Kung-Fu movies.
9. Kobe Bryant's Dedication To His Wife On His Right Arm
We all know the story.
Kobe Bryant got caught cheating (understatement) with a 19-year-old hotel employee. To make it up to his wife, he bought her a $4 million ring and tattooed her name, Vanessa, on his arm along with a queen's crown, angel wings and religious scripture.
If this doesn't make you lose some respect for Kobe, check for your testicles.
8. J.R. Smith's "Swish" Tattoo On His Neck
J.R. Smith recently added colored letters to his neck spelling out the word, "Swish."
Apparently, Smith thought this fit in nicely with his other neck tats: red stars and a "Young Money" (Lil Wayne's record label) logo, which is a rip-off of the New York Yankees trademark.
The ironic thing about the "Swish" tattoo is that it implies great shooting, something Smith's very average career shooting percentages of .437/.366/.743 fail to reflect.
Oh, do I look forward to seeing Smith when he's in his 50's.
7. Kissy Lips Just Under Kenyon Martin's Right Ear
This definitely gets votes for worst tattoo in the history of sports.
Kenyon Martin—yet another Denver Nuggets player with asinine tattoos—had his girlfriend's lips permanently kissed onto the side of his neck.
6. The Crown Under Kenyon Martin's Right Ear
...and then tried to cover it up by turning it into a crown tattoo after he and his girlfriend, rapper Trina, split.
Is it just me or does Martin's tat look a bit like the New York Mets' home run apple about to rise?
5. Marquis Daniels' Apparent Dedication To Kurt Cobain
We should leave it up to mental health professionals to decipher what underlying issues prompted Marquis Daniels to tattoo on his arm a caricature of a person committing suicide.
Daniels, who hails from Orlando, has other wacky tattoos, including the entire state of Florida on his back, Bible verses on his chest, and (surprise!) Chinese characters on his arm, which translate into English: "healthy woman roof."
4. DeShawn Stevenson's Backwards "P" On His Left Cheekbone
When asked about the backwards Pittsburgh Pirates-like "P" logo on his left cheekbone, DeShawn Stevenson said he was a fan of the Pirates because Barry Bonds, his favorite player and a San Francisco native—Stevenson grew up three hours away in Fresno—once starred for the team.
Um... Stevenson was 11 years old when Bonds played his last season in Pittsburgh. He's that much of a fan, huh? And why is the backwards "P" red?
Or maybe the "P" stands for, as some believe, Piru, as in Piru Street, the birthplace of the Bloods street gang in Compton.
I'll let you decide.
It's just one of many ridiculous tattoos Stevenson has. There's also a crack on his forehead, which he says represents the fact, "he never cracks."
If you don't crack, then why is there a crack? Are you sure the crack on your head doesn't mean something else?
3. The "Praying Hands Of Death" On Stephen Jackson's Stomach
This is a personal favorite of mine because it's so incredibly wrong it's hilarious.
Here, Stephen Jackson took a generally common and positive religious tattoo—hands clasped together in prayer—and ghettofied it by putting a gun between the hands.
I tried giving Jackson the benefit of the doubt by assuming he was simply a big Reservoir Dogs fan who wanted one of the movie's more popular scenes—when Mr. White and Mr. Pink draw guns on each other—represented on his body.
But then I noticed the Bloods "b" tattoo on his lower right abdomen. And then I thought about how he once licked off five shots in a strip joint's parking lot during an early morning altercation.
Interestingly enough, while he's generally portrayed negatively in the media, Jackson is respected and adored by many players, coaches and executives throughout the league. He's considered a great teammate and does a lot of charity work in his spare time.
2. The $5 Bill/Abraham Lincoln Memorial On DeShawn Stevenson's Neck
After spending much time trying to figure out what the hell DeShawn Stevenson was thinking when he put two No. 5's and Abraham Lincoln on his neck, all I could come away with was another Bloods reference.
The most commonly used Bloods symbols include the number five, which reflects the number of letters in the word blood.
In addition to Honest Abe appearing on the $5 bill, there's also the little known fact there was once a gang in 1850's Baltimore who planned to assassinate Lincoln. The name of this gang? The Blood Tubs.
While there's clearly no relation between the Blood Tubs and the Bloods, I had to entertain the mental picture of Stevenson hanging out with his homeboys one night, drinking a 40, hearing a fairy tale about how the Bloods once tried to kill the president, and deciding, "yeah man, I'm gonna get Lincoln on my throat."
Conspiracy theories aside, Stevenson did tell a Washington Post reporter in 2009 that he got the Lincoln tat because, "Lincoln freed the slaves." When asked about the fives, Stevenson said he added them because people couldn't figure out it was Lincoln on his neck.
Yeah, I don't know if I buy that either.
1. Chris Andersen's "Free Bird" Tattoo On His Neck
Oh, you're a "free bird" alright... one that flew the coop a loooooooooooooong time ago.
To try to intelligently make sense of anything Chris Andersen-related is to take a drop of acid and attempt to do your taxes. Nothing about this man makes any sense; to simply call him eccentric is a crime of an understatement.
This guy makes Dennis Rodman's college degree at Southeastern Oklahoma State almost Ivy League.
As a rookie, Andersen only had three visible tattoos, none of which had color. Now, of course, as the "Bird Man," a nickname he earned by flapping his arms after dunks and blocks, he has tattoos of:
An eagle, a phoenix, bird wings, Chinese letters, a skull with a king's crown, chain links, random tribal designs, a guy dunking a ball, dollar signs, a pit bull, a dog dunking a ball and "Honky Tonk" across his stomach.
Just to name a few.
But none are most noticeable and obnoxious than the "Free Bird" written on his neck.
Coincidentally, Andersen was banned from the NBA for two years after failing the league's drug policy in 2006.
How long will it be before we see an NBA player who looks like this?