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: Aug 17, 2010
Posted on: August 1, 2011 9:51 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception



Since: Mar 21, 2007
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:28 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Clownin' on dudes who have standards in women = fail on your part.

Since: Sep 5, 2009
Posted on: July 28, 2011 9:09 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

@TheEd- I found your comment regarding people who served in the military but weren't officers hilarious. Your atrocious grammar and spelling says it all!    

Since: Aug 27, 2010
Posted on: July 28, 2011 8:05 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

You guys believe what you want, I'm getting laid consistently and that's all I care about
But heaven forbid she get a couple tattoos or you dump her. Is that a pre-requisite to date a broad? You're such a loser.

Since: Mar 21, 2007
Posted on: July 28, 2011 2:46 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

I actually pity people who lack the basic intelligence to recognize they're own ignorance.
Such as those who lack control over homonyms and misspell words?  But I, for one, will not 'make up my mind about you for the choice you made' to do those.  I'm sure you deserve judgment on deeper merits, as do those with body ink--as I believe you're trying to say.

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:59 am

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Riiiiiiiight.  Well, I hope he's good to you.

Since: Oct 3, 2006
Posted on: July 27, 2011 9:17 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

I'm not "trying to get people to believe" a damn thing. You guys believe what you want, I'm getting laid consistently and that's all I care about Wink

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: July 27, 2011 9:11 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

Thank you for confirming your comments are based solely on your own ignorance. 

But c'mon, man.  You still trying to get people to believe you're dating a girl this time? 

Since: Aug 17, 2010
Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:44 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception


Since: Oct 14, 2010
Posted on: July 27, 2011 5:33 pm

Image is everything: On tattoos and perception

The tattoos don't change my opinion of Durant.  I don't care for his brand of interview.  I like him less and less.  As a fellow alum from TEXAS and as a Christian pastor, I find his "first I want to thank God/Jesus Christ/ The Holy Spirit" response to every post-game interview to be about as attractive as NASCAR, the LPGA, the PGA, the WNBA putting ads on their athletes coveralls, sport shirts and jerseys.  Durant is not being interviewed to give a sermon anymore than we would appreciate interviewing Phil Michelson only to hear him say, "It was an incredible birdie run I had and I want to thank the Republican Party for not raising taxes.  Do we really want Christy Kerr to say "thank you and my husband and I are having a great week-end here at the Evian Masters?"  What if one of the Muslim athletes begins by saying, "Thanks to Allah and yes, it was a virtual jihad when we steamrolled the Packers!"  Don't be surprised if Durant puts John 3:16 on one shoulder and the 23rd Psalm on the other.
Anyway, I am tired of Durant's and everyone else's nod to God.  "Do that on your own time, Kevin.  The interview is public time."  This just makes you look simple.

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