By Trish Arab
Believe it or not, tattoo culture in the NBA has really only been a thing for a little over a decade. Crazy to think, since expression through tattoos has become so entrenched in basketball culture, but it's true. In fact, fashion self-expression, art, all the things we know and look for in the NBA are relatively new to the league officially. In 2005 former commissioner David Stern even enforced a strict dress code on NBA players. It was said to make the league more professional, and to "de-personify" but in actuality, the opposite happened and since the dress code only applied on the court, the tunnel became a place where fashion and personal style was created (and some times went to die).
But tattoos couldn't be removed once you hit court-side.
Enter Allen Iverson. AI may not have been the first player in the League to have a tattoo, but he was definitely the one who brought them into the mainstream, and forced the conversation around race in the NBA to the forefront. In 2000 Iverson was featured on the cover of an NBA owned magazine, with his tattoos entirely airbrushed out. This started the conversation around racism in the league, and was what some people believe led to the dress code 5 years later, but it was a conversation that grew louder over time and one that caused all fans to pause and consider what side of this issue we fell on and why.
We here at Tidal League celebrate the role the NBA plays in terms of fashion and the arts, in fact one of our shows "Survival of the Fitted" is dedicated to the fashion dos and don'ts and the trends coming up in the League.
Continuing in that celebration of the arts, today we launched the Tidal League original series “Sessions" a show that takes a look at tattoo culture, the inspiration, the dedication to self-expression and the talent that comes through. “Sessions” are raw, unfiltered conversations in the intimate setting of a tattoo chair, which showcase not only some of the biggest named athletes, but also some of the most talented tattoo artists in the business.
Hosted by Matt Mangano, the creator of @InkedNBA on Instagram episode 1 features PJ Washington of the Charlotte Hornets and tattoo artist Mark Johnson aka Jeezy Tattoos and was filmed on location at Jeezy's place in Miami. This episode really gives a behind the scenes look at what goes into the tattoo process. Matt's passion for ink and his expertise really shine through, and you see how comfortable he makes people feel (even when the needle is making them feel uncomfortable). The real back and forth between player and artist when it comes to collaboration and bringing a vision to life. "I just want to help put quality tattoos out into the world." says Jeezy "help show that you should put effort into the ink that you put into your skin." This is really evident when it comes to the time and care put into creating the image we later see tattooed onto PJ.
PJ tells us where his tattoo inspiration comes from, what it means to him, and to his personality and why getting inked is so much a part of life for him and many other athletes. PJs thoughts on his team, on fatherhood and his place in the game, no topic is left out in this intimate, interesting and beautifully shot episode, check it out