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Monday, December 15, 2003
In the Paint: NBA's best tattoos


When pro basketball is played at its purest form, NBA players perform like artists on the court.

Book cover
If you look closely, however, many of those NBA artists actually serve as a piece of canvas. Body art dominates the NBA, and for many players, their number of tattoos is higher than their nightly scoring average.

The tattoo trend is chronicled in Andrew Gottlieb's new photo book, "In the Paint: Tattoos of the NBA and the Stories Behind Them." The 112-page book filled with up-close photos of some of the NBA's most detailed tats and offers an explanation to each design.

Why does Allen Iverson have the initials "CT" tattooed on his neck? What's on Chris Webber's chest? And what's the significance of Shaquille O'Neal's "Against the Law" tattoo? Gottlieb's book provides the answers.

Page 2 got a sneak peek at some of the photos in the book, so check out a sampling below. Then vote in our poll at right to identify the league's best-decorated player.

Doug Christie Brian Grant
Doug Christie
Brian Grant
Christie on his family-oriented tattoos: "I'm around athletes, married guys who commit infidelties. I don't judge them for that. I just decided I wanted to be a basketball player, and I want to be a married man, and I want to be faithful."
Grant on his Bob Marley-inspired tat: "I got into Marley pretty heavy. That guy was deep. He was fighting for the rights of his people and, at the same time, equality for everyone."

Allen Iverson Kenyon Martin
Allen Iverson
Kenyon Martin
Iverson on having a magazine cover up his tats: "You can't do that. I am who I am. ... (Getting tattooed) is an act of expression."
Martin on his Grim Repear tat on his left arm: "That's how I see myself. The reaper, man. I go out and take what I want."

Cherokee Parks Jalen Rose
Cherokee Parks
Jalen Rose
Parks on his Statue of Liberty tattoo: "It's from a World War I propaganda poster. I've always been into patriotic art."
Rose on his many tattoos: "On my left arm, I've got 'mentally focused.' Some people don't need to stay focused. I do. It's too easy to get off track out here. I also have a soldier with a battle helmet on, because this life we live is a concrete jungle. Every time you leave your house, you've got to be prepared for what might happen."

Shaquille O'Neal Jason Williams
Shaq
Jason Williams
Shaq on asking mom's permission: "First of all, I got my tattoos because I was allowed to get them. You better believe I asked my mom first. And she told me I could get the tattoos, but I had to keep it corporate. See, she thought that when I was done playing ball, no one would give me a job if I was covered with tattoos."
Williams on the WHITE BOY tattoos on his hands: "That's my newest. 'White Boy.' No real story there. It's self explanatory. ... Ah, hell, man, I don't have no meaning behind my tattoos."