Some of the best, and worst, NBA tattoos
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the best, and worst, NBA tattoos

NBA players are the most front-and-center of all athletes. Football and hockey players wear helmets, as do baseball players when they bat and caps when they are in the field. They wear long pants and long sleeves most of the time too. Basketball players, on the other hand, wear shorts and tank tops. We get to see a lot of their bodies, and some players use them as canvases. If you watch the NBA, you know how many guys have tattoos. Some of the artwork is cool. Some…not so much. We’ve collected some of the best, and worst, examples of player ink that the NBA has to offer.

 
1 of 20

Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers
Jeffrey Swinger/USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to knock a Martin Luther King Jr. tattoo. Perhaps having words framed to look like a suit is a bit convoluted, but the artwork is immensely impressive. As far as photorealistic tattoos on NBA players go, this may be the best of the bunch.

 
2 of 20

Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley
Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Look at those insane hand tattoos. Hand tattoos almost never work well, and Beasley's designs are particularly busy and bad. On top of this ink, the new Laker has "Super Cool Beas" tattooed across his back. If we had a photo of that, it would be an easy induction into the bad NBA tattoo hall of fame.

 
Montrezl Harrell
Jeffrey Swinger/USA TODAY Sports

Harrell has a few faces tattooed on his legs, including what appears to be that of Ray Charles. This appears to be a photorealistic Willie Nelson, and it's a well-done design. We're not entirely sure why a guy who grew up in North Carolina and went to college in Louisville has a Willie tattoo. Maybe his time in Houston had an impact on him?

 
4 of 20

Marcin Gortat

Marcin Gortat
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

Gortat, who was traded to the Clippers this offseason in exchange for Austin Rivers, has a tattoo on his leg in honor of Michael Jordan and his Jumpman logo. That's a cool idea. The only problem? The Air Jordan on his leg...doesn't look great. So we'll give the Polish Hammer points for concept, but unfortunately he didn't get much bang for his buck on execution.

 
5 of 20

Mike Muscala

Mike Muscala
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

A few NBA players have Super Mario tattoos. Unsurprisingly, one of them is Mario Chalmers, but he's not currently playing in the NBA. Muscala's Mario tattoo looks great, and he's a delightful and beloved pop culture icon that is instantly recognizable. Bonus points for choosing a flying Mario, which feels fitting for a basketball player.

 
6 of 20

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan
Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports

DeRozan, who was just traded from the Raptors to the Spurs, has a tattoo of two street signs. One reads "struggle," and the other reads "dedication." Obviously, the sign is where struggle meets dedication. Since when is getting a middle manager's motivational poster tattooed on your arm a good idea?

 
7 of 20

DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports

We don't know why Boogie has a tattoo of the Statue of Liberty with a skeleton face. It doesn't really matter, though. It looks amazing, and it's an original, fresh design. This may be the best tattoo in all of the NBA.

 
8 of 20

Wilson Chandler

Wilson Chandler
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Chandler is absolutely covered in tattoos. Just slathered in them. On his left leg, he has a Homer Simpson, which is awesome. He also has Quagmire from "Family Guy," which is not so awesome. What we're singling out here is that pig though. Look at it. It's so disturbing. Try and take a close look at it sometime. It's pure nightmare fuel. Maybe that's the point, but we don't like it.

 
9 of 20

Wilson Chandler (take two)

Wilson Chandler (take two)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Since we just knocked Chandler's nightmare-inducing pig tattoo, and since he has so many designs, let's give him some praise as well. Both of these designs are really cool-looking. Though the tattoos aren't immediately identifiable, they grab you instantly and look beautiful. That's what matters most.

 
10 of 20

David West

David West
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

West was never the most exciting NBA player, so perhaps it makes sense that he has one, or perhaps it's technically two, of the least-exciting tattoos in the league. "Carpe Diem" is a pretty well-worn phrase. He's not a kid from "Dead Poet's Society." Also, the back of the calves is a weird place to plant this design.

 
11 of 20

Jeremy Lamb

Jeremy Lamb
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Bubble letters on a tattoo? Who knew they would work this well? While it feels like this would be a tattoo that a My Little Pony gone rogue would get, it's a sharp design. We're all for it. We're also fascinated by whatever is going on right next to it with the power, heart and volume symbols.

 
12 of 20

DeAngelo Russell

DeAngelo Russell
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Russell has a lot of tattoos. He has a Muhammad Ali, a Bob Marley, a weird, creepy mouth, and just a ton of other stuff. We have one question though: What the heck is this thing on his arm? It looks kind of like a hockey mask, but no matter how much time we spend staring at it, we can't figure it out. That's a big negative on the tattoo front.

 
13 of 20

Kevin Love

Kevin Love
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Love's arm tattoo walks a thin line between corny and cool. On the one hand, it's something of a macho, tough guy design. However, the medieval vibe to it is nice and, in the end, there is a sword plunged into a skull. It looks good, and it's certainly impactful.

 
14 of 20

J.R. Smith

J.R. Smith
Jason Miller/Getty Images

As you probably recall from Smith's shirtless summer of celebration, J.R. is basically covered in tattoos. This includes a "black Jesus" tattoo on his chest. However, we're here to give him a thumbs down for his extensive neck tattoos. Ink on the neck is always a bad idea.

 
15 of 20

LeBron James

LeBron James
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

King James is tatted up to the nines, and for the most part his ink looks good. However, we wanted to single out a simple tattoo he has on his leg that reads, "Witness," which may call to mind those Nike ads. It's cool, and the font choice is sharp as well.

 
16 of 20

Tyson Chandler

Tyson Chandler
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Not every tattoo has to be meaningful or vibrant. That being said, what's this? Chandler has a lot of tattoos, but most of them aren't this drab. This is just a design. It's the shrug emoji equivalent of a tattoo. Oh by the way: Shout out to Mike Scott and his literal emoji tattoos.

 
17 of 20

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Lillard has a psalm tattoo down his upper left arm. We're going to eschew the religious portion of this design, because obviously your own belief system will guide your opinion on the content of this piece. What's definitely impressive is the artwork, especially on the letter. This is a busy tattoo, but it still looks sharp and clear.

 
18 of 20

J.J. Redick

J.J. Redick
Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

This is the opposite of Tyson Chandler's tattoo. There is too much going on here. It's too busy. This is the ink equivalent of movies like "Hurricane Heist." There's so much bombast and craziness that you get overwhelmed and don't really enjoy your experience.

 
19 of 20

Kelly Oubre

Kelly Oubre
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The "Sacrifice" on the stomach may be gilding the lily, but the lettering is impeccable on that tattoo. That also goes for the "Fear" and "God" tattoos, which are also shrewdly placed and colored sharply. They pop without being eye-searingly garish. (Hi, Chris Andersen, wherever you are.)

 
20 of 20

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The tattoo on Irving's left forearm led to accusations that he had joined the Illuminati. However, unfortunately the tattoo we want to shout out is the one that is covered by an arm sleeve while he plays. Irving has the "Friends" logo tattooed on his arm. Yes, the '90s sitcom. Shout out to Kyrie for being a true '90s kid.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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