Blog Entry

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Posted on: July 24, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: July 24, 2011 2:34 pm
Posted by Royce Young

Maybe you don't remember the old Canon Andre Agassi commercials. But I'm sure you remember the tagline. Image is everything.

Sure, it was just a clever way to tie in high-quality pictures with a tennis star who had quite a rebellious, care-free image, but that idea lives on. Especially with high-profile athletes. Marketing, branding, visibility, likability -- all that crap is essentially what leads to more money. The more people like you, the more people trust you. So when you endorse a product, whether it be a brand or even yourself, appearance and image, are what matter.

And nobody in the NBA has a more squeaky-clean image than Kevin Durant. He's a superstar, but one that's humble, soft-spoken, team-oriented, committed, loyal and basically 50 other words describing how good a dude he is. He caught a lot of attention when he sheepishly announced his grand five-year max extension with the Thunder while LeBron was prepping for a one-hour special, but it goes back a lot farther than that. He would run the scoreboard in college at Texas during intramural games. He plays video games with neighborhood kids. He signs every autograph. He introduces himself as you wouldn't know who he was. "Hi, I'm Kevin." I mean, we're talking about a global basketball superstar that has two straight scoring titles, was the second-leading vote-getter in the West last season and one of the most visible and brightest stars in the league.

So in terms of image, Durant has about as good a one as you can get. I think you'd have a better chance of finding the Holy Grail than finding someone with a bad word about KD. You know a guy is solid when other fan bases say things like, "Yeah, I can't hate KD. He's just too awesome."

Which is why you might be surprised to know that picture up top is actually of Durant. A lot of people were stunned to see the clean-cut, humble dude from conservative Oklahoma City so inked up. As a result, it started a minor frenzy. Virtually every major blog has picked up the photo of Durant standing in China with his shirt off and subsequently shocked the masses by what was revealed: Kevin Durant has tattoos. Not just one, either. Lots of them.

But what caught so much attention isn't the fact that he has them. It's where he has them. Not on his arms. Not on his neck. Not on his wrist, leg or shoulder. KD only has tattoos on his chest. Almost in a comical square pattern. Almost like he has them there so that they'll stay covered up when he's wearing, you know, a basketball jersey.

Some have wondered: Is this just KD maintaining his image?

Potentially. And if so, you kind of have to respect that self-awareness of his image and brand.

I understand that with tattoos, along comes a certain perception of the person getting them. Especially when they come in excess as in Durant's case. It's a pathetic stereotype, but there's a certain thinking that if a person has a bunch of tattoos, that must say something about who they are, something about their character. You didn't see a bunch of ink all over Martin Luther King Jr. or the Dali Lama. Obviously, that's silly, but that type of idea is unavoidable.

Which is why some have figured that Durant is trying to have the best of both worlds with his tattoos. Keep up that sharp-dressed-man look on the court with clean arms, but have his ink hidden underneath where it would only be seen if for some reason the NBA went shirts versus skins.

I get that theory. It makes sense. But it shouldn't matter. Durant got the tattoos because he wanted them. He had them put on his chest because that's where he wanted them. And if he wants one on his shoulder or arm, he'll get it. Durant is always, always himself. The image people have of him is great, but he's not trying to live up to that. He's not changing who he is just to try and be the person we all think he is or should be. He's simply just going to be him. If some ink on his skin changes the way someone looks at him as a brand, a role model or a player, I think that says a lot more about the person than it does about Durant.

The entire Thunder team has sort of been branded as this choir-boy bunch of kids that say yes ma'am and no sir while having no piercings or nasty body art. Maybe that's because it really fits the conservative nature of Oklahoma and people ate up the fact that the players adhered more to weird community social standards than to the perceived "thug life" of the NBA. With Durant being the face of the franchise, everything fell in step behind him.

But if he has ink, what does that say about the perfect little Thunder? Can we not root for that team now? Should fans not love them as much? Do we tell kids in school not to be like them now? I mean, really, how stupid is it that all of this is because of some ink on a guy's skin?

There is a line and even David Stern acknowledged it when he instituted the dress code a few years ago. There's a certain level of professionalism that has to be upheld for the general public to be able to be to connect with players. It's a touchy area, but understandable. I suppose you could apply those same principles to Durant and his ink, but what does it matter?

A lot of stars have tattoos all over their bodies. Kobe and LeBron have clearly visible ink. Some players don't -- like Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Most would've had Durant in that category, too. But does now seeing him inked really change anything? And more importantly, should it?

Ink is ink, a player is a player and most importantly, a person is a person. All three aren't necessarily related.


Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: July 25, 2011 5:32 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception


I personally though Kevin Durant was way above getting tattoos
Is Kevin Durant a good player still; yes.  A nice guy; sure.  A good role model; not anymore in my view.
Bizarre.  So, regardless of the wholesome message his tattoos represent, he's a bad role model.  And only bad people get tattoos (people who don't are "way above" it).  Makes no sense whatsoever.

Amazing how incredibly close-minded people can be.  I don't have any tattoos, but they don't represent anything inherently bad.  I don't even know where that "logic" comes from.  Some bad people have tattoos - so do some good ones.  Same with owning guns, drinking alcohol, or a littany of other activities.  

Might as well say, "I personally thought Kevin Durant was way above owning a Chevy truck" or anything else you don't like but doesn't actually reveal a single negative thing about the individual.

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: July 25, 2011 5:25 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

In is ink, a player is a player, and most importantly, a person is a person.
And an idiot is an idiot.  Or in this case, a writer just a guy missing the point.

Instead of trying to say that keeping his tattoos not visible to fans has some implications on Durant's great-guy image (and for everything I've ever read, it's more than image - it's genuine), maybe some recognition of what the tattoos ARE?  Looks like almost every tattoo is religious or honoring his mother and grandmother, who helped raise him. 

The tattoos don't reveal some other side of Durant that no one knew about.  They just reinforced what we already knew - the kid IS an example of what you'd want your son to grow up like or your daughter to date. 

Oh, and tattoos are pretty prevalent in "conservative" Oklahoma.

Since: Dec 13, 2006
Posted on: July 25, 2011 5:12 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Anyone look at what his tatoos say?  "Walk by faith not by Sight," "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." Then he has tatoos of his mom's and grandma's names on his chest...OMG what a thug, he has quotes from the Bible written on him, and he honors the people that raised him.  

Since: Sep 3, 2007
Posted on: July 25, 2011 4:36 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

I agree 100% KD shows that you can have tattoos and still show people that you really shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.  If his tatoo's showed would people think different of him? Now that people know he has tattoos does it change people's image of him know?  Who knows, but what it does show it that KD has these tattoos because they do mean something personal to him and he kept them private.  He really is a great image for the NBA!!!

Since: Oct 15, 2006
Posted on: July 25, 2011 1:34 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Perception is everything. Tattoos, will only change how we preceive Kevin Durant. Had he not no tattoos as most of us would have imagined it would have kept our perception of him.

If a players plays unselfishly on the court we perceive his an unselfish player. If he takes all the shots we percieve him as selfish. There is not different with how we perceive him with tattoos.

I personally though Kevin Durant was way above getting tattoos, and would seen no need to ink himself up. However, if he chooses to tattoos, its within his own body of life-time decision to make. And with every choose we make how people perceive us will change.

Is Kevin Durant a good player still; yes. A nice guy; sure. A good role model; not anymore in my view. Up until the point he got all those tattoos he would have been a good role model. But tattoos, are not something I would of my choosen role model. Sorry Kevin, just my perception, which I freely made, just like you did the tattoos.

Since: Jul 2, 2011
Posted on: July 25, 2011 12:31 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

dont judge the man for the tatoos he has or where he has them ..most of the people that have them use them to express a feeling or 
to stand up for something ,so who cares where they are ? its more inportant what they represent or the meaning behind them
and looking at what ink he has there is nothing offensive about them so why the big deal!!! ink away kevin and most people wont think twice  

Since: Feb 24, 2007
Posted on: July 25, 2011 7:13 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Does it change anything now that we know he is inked up?
It should. It should make you respect him even more. Why? Because it shows he is respectful. My guess is that he wanted tattoos because it means something to him, but it is a private thing for him. He doesn't see the need to advertise them to you because he doesn't care if you understand them, or like them or whatever, he likes them. And did it not occur to anyone that maybe his family doesn't really like them so out of respect to parents or grandparents he doesn't do it? or even that he doesn't want some kid to run out and get a superman tattoo becaue he has one, etc.

Body art is a personal thing, but lots of people just do it to put on a show. obviously it's personal to Kevin, and he prefers to keep it that way. Good on him. The backpack weraing kid went up a notch in my book, and he was alrady a pretty great kid and role model. Very nice Kevin, and how slow of a news day does it have to be to start reporting on players tats anyway? Get ready as there could be a whole year of this coming.....

Since: Dec 10, 2008
Posted on: July 25, 2011 2:46 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

first off tattoos are bad ive got plenty on me;

second can you really take KLM seriously when he supports both usc and ucla......someone should clue him in on why tats arent bad and that bruins and trojans are rivals(pretty fierce in football)

Since: Apr 23, 2010
Posted on: July 25, 2011 2:20 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

If I had a Washington Nationals tattoo I'd want to cover it up too.

Since: Apr 27, 2011
Posted on: July 25, 2011 1:59 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

If you didn't know at first, you know it for sure now. There is a lockout. In a sad effort to write an article now we are on the subject of tattos. The NFL lockout is over and one of the lead stories is Favre? What's happening to CBS?

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or