NBA Players' tattoos: Which NBA player has the best ink?

NBA Players' tattoos: Which NBA player has the best ink?

Lewis Injai
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:06 PM

Tattoos! Getting them has become quite a popular phenomenon in mainstream culture. Gone are the days when one used to look different or stood out if he had tattoos all over his body. Peer pressure, culture, tradition, media influence, and self-expression are some of the reasons people do get tattoos. When it comes to the NBA, it has become quite a site seeing a player inked up. But which player has the best tattoo, and what are the stories behind them? Join us as we talk about NBA players' tattoos in this article.

NBA Players' tattoos
NBA players are quite synonymous with tattoos. But which player has the best ink? Read along to find out. Photo: Jason Miller, Elsa
Source: Getty Images

NBA players have pretty interesting tattoos paired with some of the most inspiring or crazy stories on why and how they got them. From Kyrie Irving, who has come under scrutiny over his mysterious tattoos, to Austin Rivers, who has Martin Luther tattooed on his body, today we look at some of the best NBA players' tattoos and the stories behind them.

NBA players' tattoos

We compiled a list of NBA players' best tattoos and meanings from a series of fan polls and credible online publications. Please note the list is in no particular order for taste do vary from person to person.

10. J.R. Smith

Starting for us on this list is J.R. Smith, a shooting guard who had an NBA career lasting 16 years and last played for LA Lakers in 2020. He is also known for his intensive tattoo artwork, over 55 in number, that covers up his entire body.

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NBA Players' tattoos-Jr smith
J.R. Smith poses for a photo during Cleveland Cavaliers media day. Photo: Jason Miller
Source: Getty Images

The tattoos on Smith's body range and have different meanings, from paying homage to his mum, daughters, and his favourite brands, to religious expression. However, in 2018, he got into trouble with the NBA management, who served him several times over his Supreme Logo tattoo. According to the NBA, no player is supposed to display any corporate insignia on their body or hair. But it is also worth noting that several players had gotten away with this type of issue in the past.

9. Mike Muscala

Mike Peter Muscala is a power forward who plays for Oklahoma City Thunder. He has a slew of artworks covered throughout his entire body, though most of them are not revealing. His most notable tattoo is that of the iconic video game character Super Mario, which is normally visible on his back.

He has never publicly stated the meaning behind every tattoo that he has.

8. Demar Derozan

Next on our list is one of the most famous players of the Chicago Bulls, where he plays as a shooting guard. What makes him more noticeable and stand out are his tattoos. His body is covered all through, but the most famous one is an expertly crafted portrait tribute tattoo of his late father and that of Marvel DC's character, The Joker.

He has never publicly come out to say the meaning behind the joker tattoo.

7. Jeremy Lamb

This Sacramento Kings' shooting guard is covered in ink, but the most notable one he has come to be known by is the tattoo of the word "BUCKETS" on his left hand, which is a slang word for when someone is making a lot of baskets. He has a tattoo of a dagger on his right hand, his shooting hand, which signifies his playing style.

NBA Players' tattoos- J. J Redick
A detailed view of the tattoo on the leg of Jeremy Lamb. Photo: Streeter Lecka
Source: Getty Images

Another one of his famous tattoos is the words "stay humble" inked on one of his legs.

6. J.J Redick

This former NBA star might be famous for his three-point and free throw shootings, but he was also known for his impressive tattoos, of which the most famous was the one on his arm sleeve. He has a full arm sleeve tattoo with the four evangelical symbols of the gospels.

At the time, this surprised many because he had never talked about his faith.

5. Jason Terry

This outspoken point guard and former NBA player made headlines in 2009 because of his tattoos. Call it sheer luck or manipulating fate, but this has once gambled on his tattoo, and it worked before crashing upon his face again.

As the story goes, before the 2010/11 NBA season, Jason added the Larry O'Brien trophy tattoo to his arm as a sign that his team, the Dallas Maverick, would win the championship at the time. This was a risky gamble because until then, the Dallas Maverick never won any championship and were, in fact, not even a strong contender. Nevertheless, to the surprise of many that year, the Mavericks beat Miami Heat and won the championship.

NBA Players' tattoos- Jason Terry
Jason Terry showing off his Larry O'Brien trophy tattoo. Photo: Ronald Martinez
Source: Getty Images

Fasting forward to the 2013 season, he was with the Celtics after a disappointing 2011/12 season for the Celtic. So he got a tattoo of Celtic's famous leprechaun spinning the trophy on his finger as a sign that the Celtics would win the 2013 Championship. But lady luck didn't smile on him this time because not only did the Celtic lose to one of the weakest teams in the NBA, the New York Knicks, but also Terry had the worst statistical season of his career.

4. Lebron James

Lebron is one of the most famous players in NBA history and one of the most impactful too, both on and off the court. He also sticks out due to his tattoos which are covered all over his body. The exact number of tattoos he has is unknown; however, there have been speculations that they could be upwards of 40. They have varied meanings ranging from motivational quotes and memorabilia to tattoos paying homage to those dear to him.

The latest tattoo he added is that of a black mamba snake curled around the 24-8 digits to pay homage to Kobe Bryant, who died in a horrific plane crash. Before we unveil our top three picks, below are some honourary mentions and questions related to NBA players' tattoos.

Honourable Mentions

Kyrie Irving

This Brooklyn Nets point guard's tattoo has stirred many basketball fans who have associated some of his tattoos with the cultic group Illuminati, even though his famous tattoo has the words "f.r.i.e.n.d.s", which pay homage to the sitcom with the same name.

LaMelo Ball

In 2018, this Charlotte Hornets point guard, 17 years at the time, made it into America's national headline news when he got off the wrong side of his dad LaVar Ball, a media mogul, for getting a tattoo behind his back. Since then, the tattoo incident has always been the subject of humour amongst basketball fans.

Who has the most tattoos in the NBA?

Chris Andersen, otherwise known as the "Birdman", is considered the most tattooed player ever to grace the NBA league.

Who is the most famous NBA players' tattoo artists?

There are a lot of tattoo artists who have honed their craft to perfection through the years but remain relatively unknown. Below are some of the most famous tattoo artists with a huge following and clientele consisting of celebrities and NBA players:

  • Steve Wiebe: most famous clients- Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Damian Lillard
  • Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy: most famous clients- LeBron James, Odell Beckham Jr
  • Scoot Mason: most famous clients- the majority of the Toronto Raptors team.

3. Kobe Bryant

This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Kobe. Back in 2003, while recovering from a knee injury, Kobe faced serious sexual assault crimes from a hotel concierge. The charges would have seen him spend considerable time in prison.

At the time, he was married to Venessa Bryant. With his public image ruined and everyone abandoning him, Venessa never left his side until he came out of the ordeal.

NBA Players tattoos-Kobe Bryant
A detailed view of the tattoo of Kobe Bryant. Photo: Doug Pensinger
Source: Getty Images

As a sign of gratitude, he inked his body with tattoos over the years to show his love for Venessa and his daughters.

2. Austin Rivers

From the portrait of Jesus Christ on his arm all the way to the portrait of Martin Luther King, this Denver Nuggets point guard has, on several occasions, been described as having some of the best NBA players' tattoos.

He also has other tattoos, mainly quotes, covering his body, which he has come out on several occasions saying that they symbolize his upbringing.

1. John Wall

His father was sent to jail when he was just one year old, left to be raised by a single mom under a lot of struggles in Raleigh, North Carolina. What followed was that his dad was released from jail because he was about to die while battling cancer. This LA Clippers point guard has for sure had some real struggles in life.

He never let the struggles define him, but he paid homage to all the influences the got as a child by inking them all over his body.

He has a lot of tattoos that mean a lot to him, but the ones that have found a liking amongst many fans are the portrait of his mom and the tattoo of the entire skyline of Raleigh.

That concludes our article on NBA players' tattoos. Though a tattoo does not directly influence a player's style of play and court performance, some players have been trailblazers and cultural icons with their respective tattoos. What is your favourite tattoo on an NBA player? Let us know in the comment section.

READ ALSO: Ranking of the top 15 best bald NBA players to ever play basketball!

Sportsbrief recently did an article ranking some of the best bald basketball players to ever play in the NBA League.

When it comes to being the best in basketball, physique, commitment, determination, and innate desire to be the best are what separate great players from the rest of the pack. But could lacking hair on your head also help make a great player? Obviously not, but one thing is true; some of the greatest NBA players to have ever graced the court had one thing in common, they were bald. So, who were they? Find out by clicking on the link above.

Lewis Injai photo
Lewis Injai