NBA Haircut Power Rankings
It's easy to get caught up in the typical early-season NBA storylines.
Sure, that stuff matters. But with more than three-quarters of the 2014-15 campaign remaining, it's far too soon to arrive at answers to any of those questions. It's actually kind of unsatisfying to even try.
Know what is satisfying (and not at all serious or important)? Ranking the best NBA haircuts.
It's November. Who cares if LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will ever jell? I'd rather know what kind of gel Anderson Varejao is using.
Here we follow the NBA's top hairstyles, as determined by rigorous ranking standards devised by a committee of one (me).
Criteria include the artistic—sheen, bounce, structural integrity and engineering ingenuity—as well as the practical—intimidation, height augmentation. Exact scoring methods will remain proprietary, but it should be noted that especially ridiculous grooming is more important than hair that actually looks good.
The sillier the better, I guess, is what I'm saying.
Time to rank top coifs.
Honorable Mention: Ogie Menor, Blackwater Elite
The NBA needs to consider expansion, if only so it can absorb Ogie Menor's Blackwater Elite from the Philippine Basketball Association.
That way, we could promptly slot Menor into the No. 1 spot here and declare all of the other contenders lacking. I didn't mention it in the earlier rules explanation because it doesn't technically apply to non-NBA players, but the most sacred tenet of any hair power rankings is this: If a haircut resembles an animal on the subject's head, the contest is over.
Animal-shaped hair wins—especially if said animal is a predatory lizard.
The Philadelphia 76ers can't sign this guy to a 10-day contract? Seriously?
Dishonorable Mention: Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn Nets
For shame, Andrei Kirilenko. For shame.
There was a time not so long ago when AK-47's nickname referred to both the firearm produced in his native Russia and the number of absurd hairstyles he could conjure up in a given season.
The Slept on it Wrong.
Just a few years ago, nobody could touch this guy's varietal stylings. Now, Kirilenko's 'do looks...sensible.
I don't even know who you are anymore, man.
10. Luke Babbitt, New Orleans Pelicans
Zach Harper of CBSSports.com gets (and deserves) all the credit for Luke Babbitt making this list.
"I appreciate Luke Babbitt trying to bring back the Home Improvement kid's hairstyle," Harper tweeted on Nov. 17.
It's uncanny, right?
This raises a few questions.
Is Babbitt's dad Tim Allen? Does he talk to Wilson over the fence when times get tough and he needs some sage advice?
Does his roguish behavior constantly get him into scrapes that he only exacerbates by lying? Most importantly, does he live in half-hour cycles that invariably result in him learning a valuable lesson about life, love and the importance of family?
I like to think so.
9. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
Aesthetics, symmetry and precision aside, Nerlens Noel gets extra points for the practical purpose behind his high-top fade.
"With my hair, I'm 7 feet tall," the Philadelphia 76ers big man said on The Dan Patrick Show (via Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com). Noel is a rim-protector, and his success in that role depends mostly on his length, timing and athleticism.
But intimidation is also a factor in the shot-blocking game, and it never hurts to appear a little more imposing—even if it takes a specific haircut to get the job done.
Norris Cole and Iman Shumpert warrant mention here, as their styles are very similar to Noel's. In fact, Shumpert's is probably more structurally impressive because of its exaggerated height. I like Noel's better, though. The edges are cleaner, and details like that matter when you're dealing with a topic this important.
It's a personal preference, and I won't apologize for it.
8. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard is a throwback player in many senses. He never says a word, plays his role, prizes defense over scoring and, most importantly, is the only guy in the league who is still trotting out the straight backs.
A decade ago, Leonard's hair would have blended in with dozens and dozens of braided styles around the league. But that style has gradually died out, and now Leonard is all alone—the king of Cornrow Nation without any subjects to rule.
There's a synergy to Leonard's look. If he had a brand, the hair would fit it. He's all business, and Gregg Popovich prizes him for his utility as much as his intensity. The no-nonsense 'rows are perfect for a guy who needs to look a little intimidating, move without aerodynamic restriction and make his living as the NBA's very best dirty-work star.
Assuming he's in line for a max deal this coming summer, it'll be interesting to see if Leonard hangs onto his anachronistic locks a little longer. New money usually means a new style.
We'll see how he plays it.
7. Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards
Marcin Gortat is fun but also possibly somewhat dangerously unhinged. He showed up to a basketball camp driving a tank, after all.
For a guy who mixes silliness with a dash of menace, the close-cropped mohawk is perfect. And however you slice it, what Gortat has up top these days is a whole lot more interesting than the totally shorn look he had going in years past.
A guy nicknamed the Polish Hammer needs to have a little edge, and even if it comes in the form of a sliver of mid-cranial fuzz, we'll take it.
It's clear from the photo above that Nikola Vucevic, a pretty tough dude in his own right, is having second thoughts about bodying up Gortat and his new 'do.
It's only right to mention that Chris Andersen currently sports a similar look. But he earns major demerits for going away from the far more outlandish vertical spikes he once had. His decision to abandon his ridiculous hair is nearly as painful as Kirilenko's.
6. Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
Nobody in the NBA has had his shot blocked more than Elfrid Payton. Through 13 games, the rookie has had his field-goal attempts sent back at a rate of 1.8 per contest, according to NBA.com.
There's probably a rational explanation for this. Perhaps Payton's smooth handle, ability to get into the lane and general aggressiveness put him in position to get stuffed more often than most. And it's also likely that the rookie simply hasn't adjusted to the length of his NBA opponents just yet.
Or maybe it's the hair.
I'm not sure what kind of weight we're talking about up there, but you'd have to think Payton would be just a split-second quicker if he weren't dragging around what has to be the heaviest mop in the Association.
If Payton keeps having his layups rudely redirected, he might want to consider a trim. It'll be a blow to his ranking here, but it's probably more important to him and the Orlando Magic that on-court performance takes precedent over style.
5. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
1. Joakim Noah's loosely contained bun is a nice metaphor for the barely controlled chaos with which he plays. In that sense, you could argue that his hair represents his game better than anyone else's.
2. Ranking him here is basically just an excuse to post this picture from 2012, in which Tracy McGrady is, for some reason, adjusting said bun.
3. Noah loses out to the next man on the list because of the missed potential here. What would Noah's hair look like if he dispensed with the restrictions?
4. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
This is what Noah's hair might look like if he'd let it fly once in a while.
Although, to be fair, it looks suspiciously like Varejao is incorporating some product into the mix up there. Those curls are a little too bouncy to be au naturale, and his wild-man image would certainly suffer a blow if it came to light that he was taking his grooming at all seriously.
Bad news: Varejao uses a curl amplifier made by a company called Catwalk, according to Elizabeth Holmes of The Wall Street Journal.
Well, at least the Brazilian center plays like his hair looks—wild and generally care-free.
Robin Lopez rocks a similar look, so it feels right to shout him out here. Two-for-one special.
3. Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic
Now this...this is something.
Maximum points for uniqueness (nobody else looks like this) and extra credit for utility (you have to keep those locks from obscuring vision) make Evan Fournier a strong No. 3 on our list.
Quite obviously, the Magic have the market cornered on backcourt hair. Incredibly, there's still potential for Fournier to take things even further. He used his Twitter account to hint at another option before the season started, and it's a strong one.
We may be looking at the next Kirilenko here, you guys. And that's not a distinction to be thrown around loosely.
Also, consider this: Europeans tend to be a year or two ahead of the game when it comes to fashion and hairstyles. Check out any Premier League match for clues on what hairstyle trends will look like in America, circa 2016.
Maybe we'll all be rocking the "Fournier" in a couple of years. Let's hope so, anyway.
2. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Los Angeles Clippers
I. Don't. Know. What. I'm. Looking. At.
But I can tell you this much: I know I like it.
Chris Douglas-Roberts augments his floppy look up top with short shorts, mid-length socks and goggles, which means he's very thorough in cultivating...whatever image he's cultivating.
Actually, that's a cynical take. Maybe CDR just digs an offbeat style. Maybe he feels like he plays better if opponents are too busy wondering why he has a Puli perched atop his noggin.
Do you, CDR. Do you.
While you're doing you, be flattered that only one NBA player topped you in our Hair Power Rankings, and he did it by leveraging an unfair advantage: maximum follicular coverage.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
This was a tough call, and it's easy to understand why James Harden's hair might seem unworthy of the top spot. He's had this same look for years now, and its shock value is pretty much gone at this point. When we see Harden, we see someone whose truly out-there coif we've simply become accustomed to.
But if you pretend you're seeing Harden for the first time, his aggressive, voluminous mohawk and trademark beard are a sight to behold. And even if we're stretching the rules a little to consider it, Harden's facial hair is still technically hair.
Nobody else in the league has this look going. Many have tried, sometimes stopping at the beard (Quincy Acy) or the sculpted ridge on top. But none have come close to pulling off the one-two punch of towering head spike and 1850s prospector beard quite like Harden.
This is the most unique look in the league and also probably its most ridiculous.