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: Sep 11, 2007
Posted on: July 25, 2011 1:37 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Me thinks someone is trying to manufacture some sh*t because there is nothing going on in the NBA.  Stop trying to throw mud to justify your pulling down a paycheck.  I'm fairly sure most people can tell the difference between thug "look at me I'm a bad man" tattoos and ink that has some personal meaning.  He has them where they can be covered because thry are for HIM not for YOU.

Since: Jul 25, 2011
Posted on: July 25, 2011 1:15 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

@ KLM- You are the biggest clown I have ever seen post something in response to something of this magnitude. If your buddy went around and started getting tattoos all over his body like hands, neck and face then maybe that's one thing as to why he can't get in corporate america. I have a cross on my back and the verse John 14:6 across my left pec and love them both. They have great meaning to me and I have been working in Corporate America since I graduated in 2008 from LSU. My boss had a pool party the other day with all my other co-workers and consultants and they actually really liked them. Half of my office had at least one tattoo that you can't see when you are at work. So your buddy is a round-mouth deuche I assume huh? Bart Simpson flicking someone off is a horrible tattoo so that makes sense but for you to throw a guy like Durant under the bus like this bc the simple fact he has meaningful tattoos on his chest is a gosh damn joke, and your the biggest waste of space that walks this earth. If I have tattoos and am the best oil and gas consultant in the industry you will bet your ass I will get hired by the top firm in the industry. If I can outperform the S&P 500 consistently every year you bet your ass I will get hired by any Investment Bank or Financial Firm in the market. Your post was so idiotic that I feel that it's you that can't get a job bc how small and narrow-minded you are and nobobdy wants to be around you. What a deuche...

Since: Apr 7, 2011
Posted on: July 25, 2011 12:49 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

If Durant were to improve the muscle definition in his upper body he would probably LOSE some of what has made his shootong touch so spectacular. Think about it. More mass=slower, More arm mass=altered trajectory. Why does every athlete need to look like a body builder? To please our image conscouis society?
As far as the tattoos, make a statement by not getting any.

Since: Nov 14, 2008
Posted on: July 25, 2011 12:01 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

I think these days you are a bad *#( if you DO NOT have tatoos. It's almost cliche at this point. That said, I like Durant and have no problems with this. And the photo proves beyond doubt that this is one NBA player NOT on 'roids and playing the game right.

Since: Sep 4, 2007
Posted on: July 24, 2011 11:49 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

I got one I already regret but I am too much of a wuss to get it removed.  There was nothing profound and I wasnt drunk or anything.  I just got a wild hair up my you know what one day and got a large tatoo of a black panther.  Hurt like hell.  It felt like someone was burning me with a welding torch the whole time.  Luckily I had enough sense to get it on my upper arm so it is not visible while I wear my suits.  I wish someone had stopped me from doing it.  Its not that I am worried about what people think, it is more like I should not have marked up my body.  It goes to prove that a tatoo really only means you were dumb (like we all are in different ways) at some point in your life.  It doesnt mean you are a thug or a bad person if you have one.  In the big scheme of things for KD it means very little.  As long as it doesnt effect his jumper he is all good.

Since: Mar 16, 2009
Posted on: July 24, 2011 11:33 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception


First of all, if you look at the picture, I don't see anything childish like Bart Simpson giving the middle finger. Stereotyping is always wrong because there are exceptions to every single stereotype you can think of. You also said that tattoos are for"roundmouth douche bags," but then you say your friend who got tatted is a "very nice and smart guy." That's a little contradictory.

Second, you said your friend couldn't find a decent paying job. Maybe that's because of another reason besides that fact that he has tattoos, such as, oh i don't know, a lack of a college degree. Think next time you decide to write something as antagonizing as that.

Unless of course, you are just trolling and wanted to stir up some controversy. Then job well done.

Since: Jun 12, 2009
Posted on: July 24, 2011 11:30 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Forget the tattoos....Kevin Durant is sporting the pecs of a 3rd grader.  I wonder what he benches?  I bet it isn't much more than whatever his wallet weighs.

Since: Sep 15, 2006
Posted on: July 24, 2011 11:29 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

I have a tattoo on my back.  It says, "Please let's never tell this guy all of the sh*t we wrote on his back.  He thinks it's a pirate ship!"

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: July 24, 2011 11:04 pm

Image is nothing - substance prevails

I have studied the photograph because I wanted to know the message this individual was broadcasting. Often I am turned off by anti-community messages on bodies (certainly not the majority of tattoos). But this one seems to be a personal message to himself. By placing it on his torso he is not advertising the message to others so it is to himself.

The women, Barbara and Wanda are either his mother and grandmother or women who helped raise him. Knowing it is Kevin Durant, my expectation is that these are not flames or lovers or even his wife (I think he is unmarried) because he is intelligent to know that the ones who do see his torso are ones he does not want to offend. So he is honoring these two women in his own mind and wants to keep doing so his whole life. In some ways this seems more appropriate than grave stones and monuments. I had not thought of tats in that way before.

I take nothing away from Durant. His body is his to do what he wants on it. I do not think less of him to see his tats. But image is not everything. Image and perception are usually misleading. Substance is determined by seeing beyond the image. It is determined by knowing the inside of a person and not the surface. We can glean a tiny bit by observing his public actions and bearing. It is still not his substance and most of us will never know that. It is not my business to know. The people I are blessed to actually know are far more important to me than an entertainment figure such as Durant. I want to stay close to those whom I am blessed to know and delight in their substance, looking past their image. I do not want to judge others but to either embrace them or leave them alone. Those who judge, actually reveal the judgment they have of themselves.

Since: Dec 14, 2007
Posted on: July 24, 2011 10:58 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Let's see... he's got a cross, what appears to be a bible passage, an inspirational quote, the names of his mother and grandmother, and the Washington Nationals logo.

I can't tell what else he's got, but I'm not picking up the "thug life" vibe.

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