NBA players are known for their athleticism, big personalities, style, and…. tattoos. Tattoos in the NBA have become a huge trend as more and more pro-ballers are getting inked up. This day in age, there is a bigger chance of seeing a player with a full sleeve of tattoos than seeing a player with no tattoos at all. In a league where everyone is tall, athletic, and dying to be recognized, NBA players get crazy tattoos to stand out and make themselves unique.
Tattoos date back to over 5000 years ago and were originally used by ancient civilizations in China, Africa, and Japan. The tattoo fad didn’t start in the United States until 1846 when the first tattoo shop was opened up in New York City. During the mid-1800s, tattoos were seen as signs of wealth and acts of service, as several WWI soldiers were seen sporting intricate designs. The image of tattoos changed after WWI when many criminals and rebels caught on to the trend. From then on out, people associated tattoos with crime, rebellion, and ultimately looked down upon people who adorned body art.
Tattoos didn’t become a part of mainstream fashion until the 1970s and have gradually gained social acceptance since then. Now that tattoos are immensely popular in the United States, people have been pushing the boundaries on their designs and where they choose to get tattoos inked onto their bodies.
NBA players are no exception to this. Some NBA players on this list have tattoos in the oddest locations, including their faces and necks. Ouch! One thing that separates NBA players from the typical tattoo wearers of society is that they can afford the biggest and baddest tats due to their six- and seven-figure NBA salaries.
Paul George is the shooting guard and face of the Indiana Pacers. To match his yellow Pacers uniform, he has a full tattoo sleeve on his right arm. The black ink sleeve resembles a chess board and includes a chess piece, a crown, and the words “Pack Gang” and “Crown Me” written in bold letters all against a checkered black and white background. This sharp shooter’s sleeve has an array of other designs including numbers, angel wings, and some other images that are too complicated to identify.
Jameer Nelson, point guard for the Orlando Magic, has not only one but two full sleeves of tatted ink. His arms are so cluttered with tattoos that it is hard to see each one individually, but Nelson does have one that stands out from all the rest. Nelson’s most unique tattoo pays homage to the late rapper Tupac and quotes his famous song and album “All Eyes On Me.” The eye-popping words are spelled in huge capital letters across Nelson’s back and are so flashy, that all eyes will indeed be on him.
Another NBAer with two complete tattoo sleeves is LaMarcus Aldridge, power forward for the Portland Trail Blazers. Unlike the goofy body art of other NBA players, all of Aldridge’s tattoos have biblical meanings. On his right arm he has a huge a cross and the words “keep God first,” which are surrounded by Greek laurel leaves. On his left arm he has God’s hand in the prayer position and the word “Faith” written in cursive. This four-time All Star is definitely an All Star when it comes to having the most religious tattoos.
Mo William’s tattoos are nuts… literally. This point guard for the Charlotte Hornets has one and a half full sleeves of tattoos. His left arm is tatted all the way up and features a stand out tattoo of the Planters Mr. Peanut among other swirly designs. His right arm is tatted from his elbow up and highlights the eye-catching image of a dog’s face on his shoulder. From his right elbow down to his wrist, Williams only has one stand alone tattoo that says “Blessed.” Between the Mr. Peanut and the huge dog face, it is hard to pick just one favorite tattoo here.
Lebron James is the king on the court, but is he the king of tattoos? If he isn’t, he’s definitely close. This small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers has 42 tattoos covering both his arms, legs, and chest area. His arms are etched with the most intricate circular designs and various words in cursive, while his chest has a tattoo of a humongous lion dragon hybrid. My favorite tattoo of this four-time MVP? The one across his back that says “chosen 1” in big letters, because Lebron was clearly chosen by the basketball Gods to dominate the NBA.
In our humble opinion, Damian Lillard is an extremely underrated player with extremely underrated tattoos. If you look closely, Lillard’s tattoos are actually incredibly detailed and well-crafted. He has two black ink half-sleeves (from the elbow up) that look great against the Portland black and red uniforms. On his right arm, Lillard has the image of a mirror surrounded by fine print circles, while on the left he has twenty-two lines of the Psalm 37 Bible verse. The verse is enclosed in a rectangle box with a background of the sun in the sky.
Aside from two full black-ink tattoo sleeves, DeAndre Jordan has some oddly placed solo tattoos on his chest and stomach. This 6’11 rebounding machine has the following tattoos on his torso: a capital letter H inside a star, the head of a lion, the word “blessed” with various bible verses, God’s hands in a prayer position, a cross, a globe, and a quote from his grandfather. My personal favorite? His tattoo of an old man’s face located on his abs. Jordan has done multiple photo shoots showing off his crazy ink, making this center’s tattoos the center of attention.
Whenever DeMarcus Cousins gets a new tattoo, he loves to post a picture of the process on his social media accounts. In August 2013, Cousins posted an Instagram picture of him getting more additions to his expanding tattoo collection with the caption “back at it again.” In one of the photos, Cousins is sleeping through the painful process, showing he is a seasoned tattoo veteran. Randy Harris is Mr. Cousins go-to tattoo artist and has recently added some new work to this 6’11” Kentucky alum’s body. Cousin’s tats vary from the Statue of Liberty with a skull face to a picture of his mother.
Brandon Jennings, must really love chicken and waffles, as Jennings, who is no stranger to body ink, has a tattoo dedicated to Roscoe’s, the famous Chicken and Waffles restaurant, etched onto his arm. Aside from the other multiple tattoos on Jennings body, he has two words tattooed on his knuckles. The words say “just ryod” which stands for “right your own destiny.” Umm, you spelled “write” wrong Brandon, but it’s okay, the Roscoe’s tat makes up for it.
Iman Shumpert has some sweet tattoos to match his sweet high-top hair-cut. In fact, he has a Johnny Bravo tattoo on his left forearm. Why Johnny Bravo, you ask? In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Shumpert explained he got the signature tattoo because he loves Johnny Bravo’s hairstyle. Johnny Bravo, the ’90s cartoon network character, has hair extremely similar, if not identical, to Shumpert’s own. This 2015 NBA finalist must take serious pride in his hair (and his tattoos!).
Unlike many other NBA players on this list, Derrick Rose does not have full tattoo sleeves. Shocker, right? Don’t worry, this point guard for the Chicago Bulls has some truly odd tats to make up for it. Perhaps Rose’s weirdest tattoo is “Poohdini,” a wizard holding an ax-pick and basketball on his shoulder. Poohdini, the sad-looking Dumbledore wannabe, is accompanied by an intricate tattoo on Rose’s hand that depicts the city’s skyline.
Quality over quantity. That is the reason Amare Stoudemire, current power forward for the Dallas Mavericks, is so high up on this list. Stoudemire’s tattoo collection is relatively spiritual and includes a bible verse on his left pectoral muscle. Ever wonder why Stoudemire calls himself “Black Jesus?” It’s because he has a tattoo of Jesus on his upper left arm. Stoudemire’s other “deep” tattoo includes the cursive word prophecy boldly written across his shoulder and right pec.
Carmelo Anthony probably has more tattoos than the Knicks had wins this season. I’m not hating on the Knicks but New York’s star forward has virtually everything you can think of tatted on his arms, including a deck of cards, an Puerto Rican flag, a snake, a skull with a knife in it (creepy!), a flaming basketball, and his initials. A standout of Melo’s tattoo collection? The Warner Brother’s logo tatted on his left shoulder. He must really love movies.
Chris Bosh, power forward for the Miami Heat, is basically a tree. No, I’m not saying that because of his 6’11” height, but because of his crazy back tattoo. On his back, Bosh has a tree branch tattoo complete with music notes, birds, a woman’s face, and an abstract tiger. Bosh’s most recent addition to his montage of back tattoos is the most creepy as well: a picture of a woman’s face who looks Lil Kim holding a skull. I have no idea what this body art is supposed to represent, but one thing’s for sure, Bosh’s tats are expressive to say the least.
Many people don’t know that Kevin Durant has an abundance of tattoos, since they are all hidden under his jersey when he plays basketball. Durant, the small forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, has no arm tattoos whatsoever. Instead, the 2013-2014 MVP has a bunch of assorted images on his chest, stomach, and back, including a house, a rose, the name Wanda, the words “walk by faith, not by sight”, the Washington Nationals ‘W’, etc. It may seem like this OKC star has the perfect tattoos but the word mature is misspelled in the bible verse on his back. Yikes, that’s permanent KD!
If you thought Chris Bosh’s back tattoo of a tree was weird, then you are going to love what Monta Ellis got tattooed on his stomach. Ellis also got a tattoo of a tree and his includes a baby’s face, an angel, and the words “family first” in the leaves. The tats don’t stop there for this McDonald’s All-American. On his back, Ellis has the Golden State Warriors logo, a dove, the number 72, a diamond, his initials, a box, and a palm all under the word “Faith” in cursive.
Each one of Ben Mclemore’s tattoos has a story behind it. The family name “Mclemore” on his back represents how much Ben loves his family. During an interview with Athletes Quarterly, Mclemore revealed his family grew up in poverty but always stayed positive, so he wanted to dedicate a tattoo to them. On his chest, he has the names of his grandparents, who have all passed away. The Arabic symbols he has tatted behind his ear say “humble” and “hungry” and represent his best friends Haz and Ahmad.
Wilson Chandler has been in the NBA for eight years and has probably sat in a chair at the tattoo parlor for longer. This forward for the Denver Nuggets is covered from the neck down in ink. His favorite tattoo he says is his daughter’s portrait and her name and his grandma’s name. Having got his first tattoo when he was about 16 years old, Chandler has had plenty of time to travel to China and other foreign countries for the most exotic looking tattoos. Among his body art, Chandler has tats of Eazy-E, multiple cartoon characters, Juggernaut from X-Men and He-Man.
When it comes to tattoos, J.R. Smith is an expert. To list all of Smith’s tattoos would be an utter waste of time, considering this shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers has over 70. Some of Smith’s standout pieces include the Yankees symbol and the word “Swish” on his neck. In an interview with the New York Times, Smith said he never plans what tattoo he’s going to get and thinks he’s been to over 1000 tattoo parlors in his life. The NBA Finalist even went on to say he used to hate tattoos, but after he got his first one when he was 15, he was hooked.
It’s no surprise that Chris Anderson is the leader of this list. His tattoos are ridiculous and by that I mean he has over 75% of his body covered with them, according to his regular tattoo artist John Slaughter. What sets Birdman’s tattoos apart from the rest of the NBA’s is that his are all brightly colored. This forward-center for the Miami Heat can be spotted a mile away, as his bold tats include various skulls, crosses, basketballs, crowns, chains, words and more. Anything you name will probably be tattooed on this man’s body. Anderson’s tattoo obsession started when he turned 18 and he’s been adding to the collection ever since. My favorite of Anderson’s tattoos is the phrase “free bird” on his neck because they coincide with his famous nickname “Birdman.”