Basketball players just love tattoos. Nowadays, over 70% of the NBA players are all inked up. A trend initiated by Dennis Rodman and Allen Iverson, tattoos allow NBA players to express themselves in and outside the playing court. Here we have a gallery of the most tattooed NBA players and stories behind the great variety of their tattoos.
From arm sleeves to cartoon characters, insane masks, Chinese symbols, motivational phrases, tribal ink, nicknames, portraits, or tattoos that tell a personal story, NBA players seem to use their bodies as a canvas for colorful and eye-catching self-expression.
Below, you can find a list of the most tattooed NBA players of all time. Since we owe most of this phenomenon to Dennis Rodman and Allen Iverson, it is only fair to start our list with them.
The Most Tattooed NBA Players
1. DENIS RODMAN
Dennis Rodman has always loved the spotlight! Apart from the notoriety he earned for his basketball. Acting career, tumultuous love life, eccentric lifestyle, body piercings, eye-catching hairstyles, or his famous friendship with Kim Jong, the North Korean dictator, Dennis Rodman is also famous for sporting one of the most shocking tattoos ever seen on an athlete’s body: a woman trying to eat her own intimate parts.
As a tribute to his relationship with the Chicago Bulls, Rodman etched two bulls on both sides of his chest. In addition, Rodman has never hesitated to showcase his tattooed body.
Among the multiple tattoos that cover all his body, we can highlight various tribal tattoos on his neck, abdomen, upper chest, upper back, and shoulders, several stars, piercings, and a cross around his belly button, his last name on his neck, the word Infinity on his neck and right hand, a devil woman with a pitchfork on his right arm, or an oversized sun with a shark on his left arm.
2. ALLEN IVERSON
An outstanding NBA scorer, Allen Iverson stands out for his impressive basketball skills and meaningful body inks. Sporting over 35 tattoos, most of them are dedicated to those people, places, and events that impacted his life. Allen has the words ‘RA Boogie’ etched on his neck as a tribute to Rahsaan, a childhood friend who was tragically killed. Below this tattoo, he also carved the word Loyalty in Chinese.
Allen went one step further and named his son Rahsaan. There is a tattoo on his left arm to honor his son, Rahsaan. The right side of his chest displays the words Tiaura and Deuce, the names of his son and daughter. Finally, on his chest, close to his heart, there is a set of praying hands in between his mother and grandmother’s initials.
On the left side of his neck, Allen had inked a spider web and the words Virginia Slim as a way to remember his birthplace. In addition, there is a recurrent CRU THIK (his record company) tattoo that Allen had etched 4 times: on his right, left arm, right arm, and the initials CT on his neck.
Since his life has been a continuous fight, as he often admitted, and he felt like a fearless soldier, Allen has a soldier skull, and the word Soldier inked on his right arm, the words Hold My Own on his right shoulder, a screaming skull and the words Fear No One on his left forearm, a Cross of Dagger and the words Only The Strong Survive on the left shoulder, and a Black Panther on his right forearm as a sign of power, fearlessness, and strength. In addition, he got inked a growling bulldog on his left arm and the words The Answer (his nickname).
There are more tattoos equally significant for Allen: the word JEWELZ (his rap artist moniker), the words Fame and The Realist on his back, the words East End (left leg), See You When I Get There (left arm), or the terms Finest and Bad Newz (right forearm).
3. WILSON CHANDLER
From his daughter’s portrait on his chest to an impressive Unstoppable Juggernaut (as a reference to his nickname) on his back or a cartoon collage on his left leg, it is clear that Wilson not only used his skin to pay tribute to his beloved ones, but he is also a huge fan of comics and cartoons. Wilson was only 16 when he got his first tattoo on his right arm: a cross with a basketball inside it and the words God Bless This Game.
His body is all inked up from his neck to his back, arms, legs, hands, and chest. It displays tattoos such as Eazy-E and N.W.A, He-Man, Space Ghost, and funny cartoon characters (Beavis and Butt-Head, Johnny Bravo, Family Guy, Ren, Stimpy, etc.), his daughter and grandmother’s names, or the words THRILL and Against All Odds. Will there be more? More than likely!
4. MONTA ELLIS
Apart from being a highly skilled basketball player, Monta Ellis is also extremely fond of tattoos. His body is the perfect canvas for Ellis to showcase his deep love for his family and for the sport that turned him into a star: basketball.
On Ellis’ chest reigns an ink mural: a huge tree dedicated to his family and the words Family First. The tree is decorated with the star of David, a baby’s face, and an angel. As a homage to the Golden State Warriors, Ellis had their logo etched on his back with a dove, his initials, the word Faith, palms, and the number 72.
5. CHRIS ‘BIRDMAN’ ANDERSON
Also known as ‘Birdman’, Chris Andersen sports an impressive brightly colored collection of tattoos, covering 75% of his body. This picture captures Andersen’s evolution – as far as tattoos are concerned – from when he joined the NBA. Impressive, right?
Anything you can think of is probably etched on his body: crosses, crowns, swords, skulls, chains, birds, phoenix wings, Chinese symbols, dices, stars, numbers, etc. But a tattoo stands out and is closely connected to his nickname and the famous song by Lynyrd Skynyrd: the FREE BIRD phrase with colored flames on his neck.
Birdman flanked his eye-catching mohawk hairstyle with two skulls (back of his head), and the words GIVE ME WAR and FOREVER NIGHTMARE on the back of his neck. And there is one more tattoo worth mentioning: the words SCREW YOU etched in capital letters on the fingers of both hands.
6. ANDREI KIRILENKO
Even though he played in the Russian league for most of his career, Andrei Kirilenko became an NBA All-star back in 2012. Even if he only has one tattoo on his back, he is worth including on this list due to the impressive nature of this ink artwork.
Andrei’s back is fully covered with a tattoo representing a warrior riding on a dragon’s back. The dragon’s wings cover his shoulders. It is not an ordinary tattoo representing Andrei’s level 80 paladin from the famous WoW game.
7. KOBI BRYANT
An NBA legend, Kobe Bryant was known for his successful basketball career that spanned over 20 years and for etching his personal life and faith on his skin. But, up until 2003, Kobe was far from being an ink-art fan.
However, things started to change when he got involved in a sexual scandal and was accused of rape. His wife, Vanessa, found it in her heart to forgive him and offered him unconditional support throughout the scandal. As an homage to her, Bryant had tattooed on his right arm a crown with butterfly wings, his wife’s name, a pair of angel wings, and the words Psalm XXVII.
Bryant got the names of his first three daughters tattooed on his forearm: Natalia Diamante, Bianka Bella, and Gianna Maria Onore. He was planning to have Capri’s name tattooed as well on February 5th. Unfortunately, on January 26th, Kobe lost his life – together with his daughter Gianna – in a tragic helicopter accident before adding Capri’s name to the list.
8. KENYON MARTIN
Kenyon Martin’s body is covered with over 20 tattoos, including roses, stars, his baby son’s face and the text Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood on his right arm, a big cross, and the text I Shall Fear No Man, But God covering his back, Chinese symbols, or the text Bad Ass Yellow Boy on his chest.
However, there is one tattoo that did manage to catch people’s attention: he had Trina’s lips inked in bright red right behind his right ear. When the relationship between the basketball star and the hip-hop artist came to an end, he decided to turn his ex-girlfriend’s lips into a strange – to say the least – red and black crown.
9. J.R. SMITH
In an interview for The New York Times back in 2012, Smith lost count of the number of tattoos that cover his body. Smith got his first tattoo when he was 15: a picture of himself dunking. From that moment on, tattoos became a lifestyle. He is perhaps one of the few most tattooed NBA players of all time.
From dollar symbols to stars, crosses, alphabet letters, diamonds, skulls, portraits, dates, dices, angel wings, guns, floral designs, numbers, quotes, Egyptian monuments, cartoon characters, or logos, tattoos offered him an excellent opportunity to express his beliefs and pay tribute to his family and the people who inspired him and marked his life.
Among the texts etched on his body, we can highlight the famous basketball shot SWISH (under his chin), My time to Shine (neck), BLESSED (chest), Blood Brothas (abdomen), In Love WITH MY MONEY (left side abdomen), THROUGH THE FIRE (right arm), Always Loyal People and Just Klownin’ (back), God understands (left forearm), KING OF NEW JERSEY (left arm), or One For My Family (knuckles).
The portraits of his family members are scattered all around his body: his grandmother (left leg), his daughters (upper left thigh, left leg), his wife (right thigh), his brothers (right side of his abdomen), his mother and the portrait of Jesus (chest), Nipsey Hussle, as well an homage to Michael Jordan (a pair of shoes, a figure holding a basketball, and an nº 23 red jersey).
10. KEVIN DURANT
Unlike many of his NBA colleagues who love to showcase their body ink, Kevin Durant kept most of his tattoos hidden for a long period of time. But, even if he has no tattoos on his arms, his chest, abdomen, back, and legs tell a different story about Christianity, faith, family, gratitude, and respect.
Since Kevin Durant identified himself with Tupac Shakur’s mindset, attitude, and beliefs, there is no wonder that he decided to have the artist’s portrait etched on his left leg. Likewise, the portrait of Rick James, the famous singer, reigns on his left thigh. In Durant’s eyes, Rick James is a synonym of freedom and childhood memories.
But if there is a tattoo that stands out, the huge tattoo on his back features the full James 1:2-4 psalm, the portrait of Jesus, the number 35, and an angel holding a basketball. On top of this impressive mural, all across his shoulders, reigns the name of his home state, Maryland.
There are other significant religious symbols on Kevin’s body: a biblical inscription from Proverbs 15:33, across, and another biblical reference from Corinthians 5:7 (right side of his abdomen). As an homage to his grandmother, Barbara, Kevin had a dove and her name etched on his chest. A rose and his mother’s name, Wanda, are also inked on his chest.
We hope this list and gallery of the most Tattooed NBA Players was entertaining and maybe even inspirational! Stay tuned for the fresh, sporty telling, and check out other articles to share it with your friends!