“Guys don’t joke [now] with them cheap tattoos. — Damian Lillard on today’s NBA tattoo culture – Basketball Network


Damien Lillard

NBA players are not spared from the tattoo rave which has only grown exponentially globally over the past decade. What was once considered an anomaly in the league is now more common practice than ever, as studies indicate that 56% of NBA players are inked – a far cry from the days when Dennis Rodman and Allen Iverson were taken into ambushed and even threatened for such a practice.

With more freedom comes more creativity.

Unlike back then, today’s generation of gamers no longer need to rebel or even be called to the commissioner’s office to get a tattoo. It became such a common practice that the NBA eventually decided to drop the restriction. And as more players embraced the art, the needle-punched designs on their bodies evolved from common tattoo themes to a more achievement-focused and personalized aesthetic.

It wasn’t as creative as today, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard spoke to Andscape about tattoo styles from that era. Guys don’t joke [now] with them cheap tattoos, Lillard, a generation player who made tattooing a common practice in the league, added.

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I have a Mount Rushmore from my mother, my father, my grandparents and my uncle Richard. There are people beyond these people who played a major role in who I am, but not everyone could fit in,Lillard, who customized his body with his family tributes, said.It’s important to me because these people will live with me forever,“added Lillard.

In the 90s and early 2000s, many players followed the trends set by Rodman and Iverson, most of whom even went so far as to copy a corresponding design. For example, in 2007, according to Andscape, more than 20 players had the AND1 logo on their arms. Even LeBron James himself copied Iverson’s “Hold My Own” tattoo, which is still present on his left bicep today.

But over time and the evolution of social media has become more relevant than ever, players have had more diversity with the designs they want on their body. Part of the conversation in NBA locker rooms these days is about tattoo artists, which one player or staff member is likely referring to another. For example, it was former Trail Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool who referred tattoo artist Steve Wiebe to Lillard.

The Growth of NBA Culture Off the Court

Like the product of basketball itself, the NBA has also transformed off the court in various ways. From his clothes, his personality, his tattoos and his general online presence, gamers have never had so much freedom in their lives. It is simply because of the trendsetters before them, who fought for the freedom that this generation now wears loud and clear.


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