You wouldn't believe the number of inky abominations etched into the pelts of pro ballers. I'd originally planned a simple list of the league's ten worst tats, but when my dishonourable mention section hit double digits I realised I'd need to expand the scope of the project a little. Even when I elongated the list to twenty-five terrible tattoos, I still found that I had to exclude some real atrocities. In the end it took a full fifty spots to showcase the shittiest skin art in the L.
If these tats are bumming you out, check out our complete gallery of NBA tattoos, including some that aren't eye-burningly bad.
The NBA's Worst Tattoos: 50-41
50. Derrick Rose's Poohdini Tattoo
Oh, the things that are wrong with this tattoo. While it at least looks like a professional job, the real issue here is not the artwork but Derrick Rose's decision to adorn his arm with a frigging wizard beneath a nickname that gives a nod to a man who spent half his life discrediting nuts who claimed to have magical powers. Throw in the fact that the warlock looks like a half-starved Wilford Brimley and this is clearly a poor decision. It's a shame, too, because the "Sweet Home Chicago" design a little further down the same arm isn't half bad.
49. Deron Williams' Panther Tattoo
D-Will isn't the only NBA player with a panther tattoo (among others, Jason Williams and Allen Iverson sport their own versions), but he is the only one whose big cat is clawing at his arm. Instead of having the appearance of a vicious killer, however, the kitty in Deron's biceps looks like an awkward housecat desperately trying to gain traction as its owner attempts to wash the floundering feline in the tub. It's also worth noting that for no particular reason the tail appears to originate three-quarters of the way up the panther's spine.
Update: It turns out that I'm a little behind the times here. As our good friend Basketball John of SLC Dunk pointed out, Deron has slapped another panther right on top of the old one. Thanks also to commenter MC Welk for pointing us in the direction of the new tattoo. It's a very minor upgrade on the original, but I think it still belongs somewhere around this spot on the list.
48. OJ Mayo's "Sacrifice" and "Dedication" Tattoos
I know the abstract noun is quickly becoming a popular tattoo (see Mike Miller's similar ink), but all you really sacrificed here, OJ, was the inside of your biceps. The florid script and curious red accents only serve to draw attention to the sort of tattoo you wouldn't expect to see on the body of a dude who scored in the 95th percentile on his ACT.
47. Andre Brown's Psalm 27 Tattoo
What would you think if you were to reach this point in the article to see that I'd written fifteen paragraphs about a single tattoo? It would be overkill, right? Well, it's the same deal here. Too many words, Andre. I understand that you're a fan of this particular passage, but I'm sure you could have found a snappier way to express that. Would a simple "Psalm 27" on your leg not have done the trick? Instead you've got half the Old Testament making the trip up and down the court or, more commonly, languishing inside your warm-ups. Oh, and this isn't even close to being Andre Brown's worst tattoo. He'll be making an appearance a little later in the list that blows this one out of the water.
46. Brad Miller's And 1 Tattoo
Is there anyone who embodies the And 1 philosophy less than Brad Miller? We're talking about a flat-footed midrange jump-shooter who chews tobacco in the locker room here. The awkward inclusion of his initials further sullies the already outdated logo that is, amazingly, the least embarrassing tattoo on his person.
Lest you think that was Brad's most misguided attempt at looking gully, I remind you of the cornrows incident. Never again, Brad.
45. Allen Iverson's "Money Bagz" Tattoo
Call it a personal prejudice, but I hate seeing words intentionally misspelled, especially when they're being committed to your skin indefinitely. We've also got a case of painful redundancy here: Not only does the phrase "Money Bagz" cover the majority of the back of Iverson's hand, but there's a stack of cash and a giant dollar bill to stamp down the point that Allen Iverson really is fabulously rich. It's got to get a little old for AI every time he sees his left hand. Checking the time: Money Bagz. Eating a sandwich: Money Bagz. Wiping your booty: Money Bagz. It's not tough to see why he has this and not a "Brain Bagz" tat instead.
44. Chris Andersen's Wings Tattoo
Let's ignore the fact that the wings sit amidst a sea of colour that brings to mind a packet of crayons left on a radiator. Let's ignore the fact that the plumage seems to suggest that Andersen's wings are on backwards. Let's instead focus on the fact that they emanate from somewhere within the Birdman's vest like a magnificent excess of armpit hair. If nothing else about this tattoo offends you, that fact alone should justify its inclusion on the list.
43. Tracy McGrady's Barbed Wire Tattoo
Tracy McGrady is a 6'8" swingman with seven All-Star Game appearances under his belt. Pamela Anderson is a pair of breast implants with a mid-sized Canadian lady attached. So what the dickens do the two have in common? A god-awful tattoo is what. At least Pammy can claim she got the ink as a promotional gimmick for her movie Barb Wire. What's Tracy's excuse? Why a prep-to-pro baller should have a tattoo more commonly seen on former frat boys now in their mid-thirties, I'll never know.
42. Chauncey Billups' "King of the Hill" Tattoo
What was Chauncey thinking? I understand that some tattoos just don't come out as well as they should, but this one can't have been anything less than pug fugly on paper either. A crown? A cane? A character bearing no resemblance to Billups wearing what appears to be a baggy wifebeater with a giant "4" written in magic marker? Somebody needs to organise an intervention or, failing that, bring some rope and a laser and deal with the situation.
41. Carmelo Anthony's "WB" Tattoo
Before you ask, the "WB" stands for "West Baltimore", a reference to Carmelo's hometown*. Now on to the obvious: Why not go for a completely different design? In choosing the Warner Bros. logo, you're guaranteeing that a significant proportion of the people that see the tat immediately think of a tap-dancing frog. At 6'8" and with a square foot of skin on your shoulder, why not just spell out the whole name and avoid confusion?
*As a Brooklyn resident, I'm a little hurt that 'Melo won't claim the borough of his birth. He spent the first eight years of his life in the Red Hook Houses and still speaks with a pronounced New York accent, yet he never mentions anything other than Baltimore when discussing his early years. I'm not making a point there. I'm just sore.
Click "Next" for tattoos 40-31.
40. Gilbert Arenas' "change we believe in" Tattoo
I'm not sure Gil, due for a spell in the slammer after his gun-related shenanigans, really embraced the kind of change Barack was talking about. That aside, the tat looks like biro scrawl, and the quality of the lettering suggests that Gil drew it himself with his other hand. Oh, and lest we overlook the little details, there's also a "44" inked on the outside of Arenas' pinky in honour of Obama becoming the 44th president of the United States. In case you haven't been following the story, a .44 Magnum was one of the guns Hibachi turned in right before his locker-room stand-off with Javaris Crittenton. Bad luck and a bad tattoo.
39. DeShawn Stevenson's Pittsburgh "P" and Crack Tattoos
For a moment, let's overlook the fact that this young man went ahead and actually allowed – nay, paid – someone to take a tattoo needle to his face. Let's take a look instead at DeShawn's reasoning for having a crack tattooed on his forehead, opening himself up to the barrage of "crackhead" jokes that began the second the photos hit the internet.
"I don't crack. I feel like people always try to break me, but I don't crack. So, I put that there."
Surely, the absence of a crack would…eh, forget it. Perhaps fellow Nobel prize winner Lil' Wayne, who has a similar tattoo, can explain it. Here's what Stevenson had to say about the backwards Pittsburgh Pirates "P" on his cheek:
“[That’s] for Pittsburgh, that’s my favorite team. Barry Bonds, when he first started.”
Someone then asked him why he chose to have the logo flipped so that it looked more like a "9".
“No, if you’re standing where Dom’s standing and looking at me, it looks like a P.”
For the record, Dominic McGuire was standing directly in front of Stevenson, about ten feet away. I'm not sure DeShawn Stevenson understands the difference between "ten feet away" and "reflected in a mirror". At any rate, this was likely a garbled explanation to justify what is rumoured to be a gang symbol. On his face.
38. Jameer Nelson's "All Eyes on Me" Tattoo
While the title of Tupac's "All Eyez on Me" (the first album I ever bought) referred to the pressure of scrutiny, Jameer Nelson's tat looks more like a request for attention. All eyes on me…please? Most eyes on me will do. Just two or three eyes on me would be enough, really. The blocky shading and the fact that the tattoo artist appears to have run out of space and thrown the final "e" onto Meerkat's shoulder don't help this one either.
37. Luke Walton's Grateful Dead-inspired Tattoo
Even papa Walton's fondness for the Grateful Dead doesn't explain this ink. If you can't see exactly what's going on here, you're not the only one. Apparently, it's a quartet of dancing skeletons spinning basketballs on their fingers, with the bony fellows representing Luke Walton and his brothers. The fact that it's a relatively simple, mostly monochrome design saves Luke's ink from a higher spot in the list.
36. LaMarcus Aldridge's Various Religious Tattoos
The problem here is not so much the design of the tattoos as it is the crippling redundancy. A good sixty percent of Aldridge's arms is dedicated to the theme of religion, and in the third photo below you can see that there's also what appears to be a chubby Bible peeking out from under his vest. Lord knows what else is under there. Perhaps an "I ♥ JC" or "New Testament FTW" join the other godly tattoos at the overkill party that is his upper body.
35. Jason William's "Whiteboy" Knuckle Tattoo
What kind of short-bus shit is this? If you have to mash your hands together like a hungry hamster for your tattoo to make any sort of sense, it's time for you to be neutered. While most tattoos this dumb are covered by underwear, Whit Eboy needs ten finger sleeves to conceal this tragedy.
34. Kenyon Martin's "I Shall Fear No Man but God" Tattoo
I'm just going to throw this out there: Does Kenyon Martin know what's actually written on his back? If you ever meet the dude, please ask him for me. Whatever the case, it's a little jarring to see that the crucifix ends just inches from the tattoo of Trina's lips. (And yes, that will be appearing in this list.)
33. Deron Williams' "Texas Made" Tattoo
Is Texas on fire? Is that smoke or steam? Why is a segment of the rubber seam missing from the ball Why are "D-Will" and "Texas Made" written in different fonts? I have a lot of questions here, but none about whether or not this is a crappy tattoo. It wasn't awful in isolation, but the shading looks horribly anaemic now that Deron has added a snake tattoo (more on which later) so dark it now it looks as if Texas sprung a leak that left ink all over his shoulder.
32. Kenyon Martin's "Flesh of my Flesh Blood of my Blood" Tattoo
It took a quartet of mistakes for Kenyon Martin to make this list for the second (but not final) time. The first was wrapping the title of a DMX album around a portrait of his first-born. The second was actually going ahead with a portrait design, a decision that almost invariably results in a goofy tattoo. The third was neglecting to maintain the muscle mass necessary to keep the tattoo looking as it originally did. The fourth was positioning the tat directly over a scar that makes it look as if Kenyon Jr. has a Charlie Chaplin moustache and a boy-band goatee. All in all, this one isn't a winning effort.
Incidentally, does anybody know what's going on with the new artwork running down the backs of both of Martin's arms? It looks as if there's a "MY WAY" on his right arm, but I couldn't be sure about that. Let me know if you find a better photo than this one.
31. Andre Brown's "Beast" Tattoo
The title alone should convince you that this is wasted ink, especially if you're among the ninety percent of people whose first thought was "Who the hell is Andre Brown?" If you're among the ten percent who recognised the name, your first thought would likely have been "Where the hell is that dude anyway?" The answer: Playing for China's Zhejiang Cyclones. LeBron and Boozer can justify their respective "Beast" tattoos, but as an undrafted journeyman it's generally best not to go for such braggadocious body art. Maybe a simple "Serviceable Third-String PF" or "Really Quite Tall" tattoo would have been more fitting for Brown.
Click "Next" for tattoos 30-21.
30. LeBron James' "Chosen 1" Tattoo
As crummy as the tattoo is, the slogan is actually kind of fitting. Not because LeBron is some sort of Golden Child, but because he has chosen one of the worst tattoos in the NBA. You see how bad that joke was? It still came significantly closer to being funny than this tattoo does to being decent. King James may be in a two-man race to be recognised as the world's premier baller, but until he has an NBA championship on his résumé he should keep this one covered.
When Anderson Varejão, who patterned his look after a pubescent Sideshow Bob, clowns your tattoo, it's time to take a laser to that sumbitch. The tattoo, that is, not Anderson Varejão. Maybe LBJ could borrow the permanent marker and have someone write a discreet "st in the 2003 draft" after this tat to make it a touch more factual.
29. JR Smith's "Death before Dishonor" Tattoo
We've seen some sophomoric efforts in this list already, but this is the first tat that looks as if it was abandoned halfway through. Can I get some colour to fill that out? A little shading perhaps? Anything? The monochrome outline of a scroll looks like a turkey twizzler, and the font would look more at home on the MySpace page of a twelve-year-old Twilight fan.
28. Deron Williams' Snake Tattoo
Let's play a little game. You can join in at home. All you have to do is take the thumb of your left hand and place it over the head of the snake. Now take the thumb of your right hand and place it over the tip of the snake's tail. What do you see? If you answered "a giant turd" or a synonym thereof, you understand fully why this tattoo needs to be on this list. This is another of D-Will's cover-up jobs, this time to obscure the "No Guts" tattoo paired with the "No Glory" tattoo on his other triceps. Here's hoping he didn't forget to cover the other half.
27. Allen Iverson's Soldier Tattoo
Someone caught hold of AI and pressed him on the story behind this part of his expansive tattoo collection. Here's what the possibly-retired guard had to say about it:
"I feel throughout my live it has been a battle, and I have survived many obstacles like a real soldier".
It's a bit of a stretch, but I see where's he going with it. That, however, would only explain a soldier tattoo. What it does not explain is a tattoo of a skull with burning eyes wearing a camouflage bucket hat. The word "SOLDIER" underneath is absolutely necessary here. It's no wonder this is the arm he wears the shooting sleeve on.
26. Matt Barnes' "Believe" Tattoo
Even with the addition of subtle colouring that improved this tattoo marginally, the sunburst background still makes it look like a logo that belongs on a box of washing powder. The praying hands have become a standard NBA tattoo, but Barnes must have missed the memo that states that the shoulder is the standard placement for such a design. In this case, it looks as if someone is trying to scare him by creeping up on him and clapping loudly in his ear.
25. Mike Bibby's Basketball and Hoop Tattoo
Can you see the picture below? 'Nuff said. Sadly, Mike Bibby has far worse tattoos than this one. Far worse.
24. Reggie Miller's Belly Button Tattoo
Please read the line above this one again. That's right: Reggie Miller's Belly Button Tattoo. It's an awful idea, and one that's not even particularly well executed. Seriously, can you tell what on earth it's supposed to be? I can vaguely make out some sort of star design if I cross my eyes and tilt my head at a particular angle, but I just can't get beyond the fact that it looks like a hideous overabundance of hair leaking out of Reggie's navel.
23. Stephon Marbury's Phone Book on his Neck
At this point I imagine you're wondering why I'm not talking about Marbury's Starbury head tattoo. Call me crazy, but I don't think it looks as ridiculous as most make out. It's a clean, inoffensive design, and when you're as notoriously nutty as Steph is, a little ink on your dome isn't going to do that much to dent your rep. The seemingly random assortment of names and numbers on the left side of his neck, however, is a real stinker. I'm sure there's some significance to the alphanumeric string that sits just below his ear, but to me it looks as if he needed to take down some details over the phone and only had a tattoo needle handy.
22. Tim Duncan's Jester Tattoo
Really, Timmy? I know the Big Fundamental had this before he'd made his name as the most efficient PF in league history, but he must have known he was at least going to be a decent player. Duncan might be the only person on the planet with this tattoo who has a steady job and a full set of teeth. As you'll soon learn, though, this isn't even Timothy's most embarrassing piece of body art.
21. Marquis Daniels' "Only the Strong Survive" Tattoo
What can I say about this tattoo that hasn't been said about 2Ball? It's a horrible idea that someone should have nixed before it was ever allowed to come to fruition. Still, what can you expect from a man who decided to order a pendant of his own head made of diamonds? Marquis may be a top-level talent when it comes to basketball, but a Rhodes Scholar he is not. This tattoo is only saved from the top ten because the graphic and lettering are actually fairly well done.
Click "Next" for tattoos 20-11.
20. Carmelo Anthony's "Who Can I Trust" Tattoo
Evidently not your tattoo artist, 'Melo. All caps and missing punctuation make this look more like a text message than a tattoo.
19. Brad Miller's Scrappy Doo Tattoo
Miller makes the list again with another thoroughly confusing tattoo. My only guess is that Brad was an unusually large child who somehow convinced the tattoo parlour that he was eighteen and used his pocket money on a tat of his favourite mystery-solving dog.
18. DeShawn Stevenson's Abraham Lincoln Five-Dollar Bill Tattoo
I imagine there aren't many of you asking why this one made the list, although some may be wondering why it only checks in at number eighteen. Don't get me wrong now: I agree that this is a supremely poor idea for a tattoo, and in the hierarchy of good ideas an Abe Lincoln neck tattoo ranks somewhere between a paper umbrella and throwing a cup at Ron Artest. That said, this one at least doesn't look terrible, which saves it from cracking the top ten.
17. Eddy Curry's "Bruised Never Broken" Tattoo
Before you ask, I have no idea why these photos were taken. Either they're the most uninspiring before-and-after weight-loss shots I've ever seen, or Eddy joined an online dating site for the overweight. Whatever the case, Curry's "Bruised Never Broken" ink jumped from ironic to just plain incorrect about three injuries ago. Please also note the gaudy "HOME" and "TEAM" tats running down either biceps.
16. J.R. Smith's Transformers Tattoos
You know what's even dumber than these tattoos? This quote:
"I got the tattoos about a month-and-a-half ago. I like the second 'Transformers' movie better. I like how they brought some of the old characters back." – J.R. Smith
There isn't a decent photo out right now, but there's an Autobot logo on the other side in addition to this Deception design. That's right: One Transformers tattoo was not sufficient for Earl Smith. If they weren't so small, they'd be a lock for the top ten.
15. Marquis Daniels' Chinese Symbols Tattoo
"Those are my initials in Chinese."
No, they're not. For one thing, it's not even possible to render English initials in Chinese. Instead of the desired "MAD", Marquis Daniels actually ended up inked with the symbols for "healthy", "woman" and "roof". Yeah, really.
14. Shawn Marion's Chinese Symbols
I couldn't throw Marquis Daniels in at sixteen without immediately following it with another garbled attempt at Chinese, this time Shawn Marion's "The Matrix" tattoo. Here's Hanzi Smatter's analysis of what went wrong with this one:
The three “Chinese lettering” Mr. Marion sporting does not really translate as “The Matrix” in Chinese.
魔 = demon, evil spirits; magic power
鳥 = bird
樟 = camphor (a plant where its chemical exact is used for making moth balls)
The movie “The Matrix” is translated as 黑客帝国 (“Hackers’ Empire”). “Matrix”, as in mathematical and logical condition, is translated as 矩陣.
13. Paul Pierce's Angel Wings and Heart Tattoo
Reggie Miller set the tone for girly tattoos with the design encircling his belly button, but Paul Pierce blows him out of the water with this monstrosity. Teeny-tiny angel wings? Check. Cutesy heart? Check. Sparkly lines around the whole thing? Check. Oh, and if you can't make it out, the text beneath the tat reads "Chosen One".
12. Richard Jefferson's "RJ" Tattoo
Commonly cited as the worst tattoo in the league, this one actually looks a little better up close. It is still very, very far from being a good tattoo, though. Generally speaking, it's a negative if your body art wouldn't look out of place in a middle-schooler's notebook.
11. Tim Duncan's Wizard Tattoo
It's a wizard. That's all I've got.
Click "Next" for tattoos 10-1.
10. Kobe Bryant's "Vanessa" Tattoo
So, to recap, Kobe's biceps is adorned with a crown, butterflies, angel wings, Vanessa's hair and Vanessa's name. I can't help but feel he could have saved some space by simply stamping the word "Sorry!" on his arm and calling it quits.
9. Acie Law's "Lord's Favorite/Lawman" Tattoo
If there's one thing worse than a tattoo that looks stupid, it's one that confirms its stupidity with a grammatical error. The "Lords [sic] Favorite" lettering on this tat does just that, and the sunbeams, clouds, fence, crown and suspect shading do little to improve the poor decision smeared all over Law's shoulder and biceps.
8. Gilbert Arenas' Tiger and Chest Tattoo
Grrrrr. I can't look at the tiger without seeing Arenas' nipples as the eyes and his belly button as the mouth. Accented by a hot mess of a chest tattoo, the innocuous design somehow ended up looking like South Bronx graffiti. The cherry on this shit sundae was Gil's decision to add red hearts to his right pectoral, which means that his chest now looks like an untended rosebush.
7. DeShawn Stevenson's "Stevenson 2" Tattoo
What better way to acknowledge your identity as a basketball player than by having your name and number tattooed on your back? That's not a rhetorical question, and the answer is "Nearly anything". Just to class things up a little, the giant "2" occupying prime position on DeShawn's back is filled with dollar signs, with three aligned smoking holes implying a bullet wound. The end result is that the giant design looks like a chubby snake that crawled through a bucket of toilet paper.
6. Kenyon Martin's Tattoo of Trina's Lips
As an encore, I'd like to suggest that Kenyon Martin have Trina's ass-print tattooed on his hand.
5. Stephen Jackson's Praying Hands with Gun Tattoo
Why does Stephen Jackson have a gun held by a pair of praying hands in front of a church window tatted on his belly?
"I pray I never have to use it again."
In that case, Jax probably should have had his brain tattooed alongside the gun.
4. Stromile Swift's "God's Gift"
I never realised it before, but when it comes to tattoos there's a fine line between "Jesus with a basketball" and "homeless dude brandishing a pumpkin".
3. Michael Beasley's "Supercool Beas" Tattoo
Because nothing says cool like a pair of '90s-style sunglasses alongside what is either a pair of tiny wings or a life-size representation of Antawn Jamison's eyebrows.
2. Mike Bibby's "Team Dime" and Portrait Tattoos
There's something about this tattoo that's deeply unsettling, and I can't quite put my finger on it. Oh, wait, it's the disembodied heads floating on Mike Bibby's back. Definitely the floating heads.
1. Gilbert Arenas' "Family Is A Haven In A Heartless World" Tattoo
If you were looking for a way to top the creep factor of a phantasmagoria of your relatives' heads, you probably couldn't do much better than working them into a bizarrely literal family tree. And just look at the faces themselves. From the very scared little girl in the upper-left portion of this monstrosity to the foetal Bill Cosby to her right, nothing about this tattoo went well. Additionally, this may be the first tattoo in the world where the tattooed party is judging the crappiness of his own tattoo in said tattoo. Gil's disapproving look says it all and sets this inkstain apart as the NBA's very worst tattoo.
Did we miss any terrible tattoos? Are these tattoos really that bad? Let us know what you think of the NBA tattoos in this list by leaving a comment below.