The Denver Nuggets didn’t even make the NBA playoffs last year, but they did lead the league in one category: Tattoos.
FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s stats- and analytics-focused blog that’s part of the ESPN family, has a fascinating article about a man named Ethan Swan. Swan is a gallery owner by day, but he spends much of his time studying and documenting NBA players and their tattoos.
According to Swan’s research, 80% of the players on the Nuggets 2013-14 roster are inked, more than any other team in the NBA besides the Detroit Pistons who also boast an 80% tat rate. Every player on the Nuggets roster except three — Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, and Jan Vesely — sport tattoos, ranging from Danilo Gallinari’s Armani logo stretched across his ribs to the portrait of Eazy-E on Wilson Chandler’s shoulder to the barcode that rests between JaVale McGee’s shoulder blades.
The amount of research Swan puts into tracking NBA tats is pretty impressive. And it’s easy to why he has gained so much satisfaction from this unique hobby. Take, for example, the story behind one of Randy Foye’s tattoos:
Take Randy Foye of the Denver Nuggets, a guy who, Swan wrote, has “one of the most heartbreaking tattoos in the league (or that I’ve heard of, period).” As the game unfolded below us, Swan told me the story. Foye’s father died when he was 3 years old, and after Randy finished kindergarten his mother walked out on the family. On his 22nd birthday, Foye had her picture tattooed on his chest.
“If my mom was here today, she would probably be the most important person in my life,” Foye once told an interviewer. “I just felt as if I needed something of her attached to me, so I just put her over my heart.”
Even in the dark of Section 217, I could see the story moved Swan.
“How,” he asked, “could you root against a guy like that?”
The article is an interesting look at the evolution of tattoos and body art in the NBA, and how some players view the ink on their bodies as a very personal form of expression. It’s definitely worth a read.