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: Mar 18, 2007
Posted on: July 24, 2011 10:56 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

The guy has tattoes of his mom and grandmother, who raised him by themselves while working, a cross, 2 bible voices, and the symbol of his hometown. And we are supposed to think less of him? This article is stupid. If anything, we should respect the guy more, not only are all his tattoes meaningful and heart-felt, but he also got them in a place nobody else would see, which means he is not trying to show them off like a cocky a**hole ala Lebron. I respect Durant a lot more then most of the superstars in this league.

Since: Feb 2, 2009
Posted on: July 24, 2011 10:43 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

I am not sure why people are so quick to stir out such a hate for the nicest and most well-mannered player in the nba. KLM, there is something severely wrong with you if you don't like people and judge someone solely based on tattoos. the guy is showing love to his native DC and you're sitting on this computer making it seem like he just killed someone. you should relax a lot and probably smoke a little weed to chill you out because from the sheer looks of it, you seem like an up-tight, hateful person. in a society with so much hate already, why add more for no reason?

durant is a class act in the nba, and already one of the top 3 players, and shows nothing but respect each game. take your bashing elsewhere because nobody cares for it

Since: Aug 27, 2010
Posted on: July 24, 2011 9:49 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception


You are the most retarded person ever. If your boy couldn't get a job because he has tattoos he's lying. He is probably dumb as dirt and has no education. Did he come out of HS instead of going to college? Maybe that's why. I have 2 visible tattoos on my biceps while wearing golf shirts to work and tell you what, the airport authority I work for has already given me 2 promotions in 2 years. So you opinion means jack shit.

People like to express themselves with tattoos. However dumb or great they are, its theirs and if they like it, that's all that matters.

Since: May 25, 2010
Posted on: July 24, 2011 9:14 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

@future-fate - chill man, klm is wrong but he shouldnt jump off a cliff, there are many many worse human beings out there than him. before putting him down, lets cure world hunger, find world peace, and tear down barriors between races and social classes.

Since: Jan 15, 2007
Posted on: July 24, 2011 9:05 pm

KLM11, You're a pathetic excuse for a human being

You don't like people because they have tattoos. That is just like saying you don't like someone because they don't dress in exactly the same fashion you do. You have to be the most narrow minded idiot I have ever seen. The term "grow up" comes to mind because you seem as judgemental as some 15 year old highschool girl. It seems your pathetic excuse for a mother never taught you that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. I'm just appaled that there are people like you still walking this earth thinking that they are absolutely perfect and that if other people don't think/act like them then they're wrong.

Just completely baffled by your beyond moronic response. Please do society a favor and jump off a cliff.

Since: Apr 25, 2011
Posted on: July 24, 2011 8:59 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

@KLM11 - You sound like a complete douche bag, and a moron to boot. 

Since: Jan 3, 2007
Posted on: July 24, 2011 8:48 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

You lost all respect for him because he has tattoos? Seriously?

Since: Jun 20, 2010
Posted on: July 24, 2011 8:34 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

I've lost so much respect for Durant, I thought he was one of the good guys in the league, turns out he's just another pathetic follower like the most of the NBA.  Tattoos are for roundmouths douche bags that think it makes them tough or women that want more attention than their breast already get them.  Seriously, unless you are part of a special team in the armed forces, part of a real tribe, or a prison lifer, having tattoos is just stupid.  I don't know how many women I've seen ruin their looks by getting tattoo's on their bodies, or guys that get the shiz kicked out of them because they think that a person would actually be scared of ink on his body.  The best is these ignorant gang members that have all these tattoo's and then when they brake the law their busted because their easy to identify.  In fact that's the only good reason I like tattoo's, it helps identify the morons in this world. 

Can't wait till 30 years from now when everyone is old and their already lame tattoos make them look disgusting.  By the way how many morons you know go and spend money on tattoos when their families can't even afford to pay their utility bills.  Also, no matter what you tattoo people say, it is not your personal art, unless your the one putting the tattoo on your body.  I know a lot of famous tattoo artist and they will all tell you that even though it may be your design, they are the one's doing the art and always put their personal touches on it, so that means it's their personal art.  The best is when someone gets a shitty tattoo and sees for the first time in the mirror, priceless.   

I had a friend in single A ball who went out one day and decided to get a tattoo of Bart Simpson giving the middle finger on his calf, when  are manager saw it, he said it was the stupidiest thing he had ever seen a talented person do.  See he was like Brad Penny on the mound, and was destined to make it to the pro's until he through out his arm in a AA game.  Before blowing out his arm he started getting more tattoos every where on his body, because like I said he was destined to make millions and didn't need to worry about his future.  He was a very nice and a smart guy, but now he can't even get a decent paying job anywhere.  Last time I saw him, he said he could only get work in warehouse or as a trucker.  

Kids don't think now a days when they get these tattoos and it just goes to show you the lack of parenting and respect they have for themselves and other.  Great decision makers these tattoo people, can't wait till this pussified country has a woman president with a tattoo sleeve, and if you think that's cool, please go get fixed immediately.

Since: Jan 16, 2009
Posted on: July 24, 2011 7:37 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

KD is from Washington DC.

Since: Oct 8, 2007
Posted on: July 24, 2011 6:50 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

What's up with the Washington Nationals tat? That's my biggest question on this non-story. Of course he would benefit from bulking up. He is amazing, but could add more to his arsenal with some more muscle. That being said, he has such a good game I wouldn't mess with it that much.

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