Even though I’ve more or less given up on what used to be my favorite NBA team — and have seen my alternate favorites announce that they’ll be bringing Blake Griffin off the bench in favor of a guy who looks like an extra from the recent remake of The Hills Have Eyes — I still get excited for this time of year, basketball-wise. There’s still a sense of hope in most clubhouses, Eddy Curry might be under three-bills, the professional curmudgeons haven’t had time to declare themselves “disgusted” yet (although the Lakers wearing Manny Ramirez wigs on media day will surely give Bill Plaschke something to mash his keypad about), and players patiently explain to the assembled media what they did in the offseason.
Usually, this means tattoos. Yeah, Matt Bonner became a Canadian citizen and Kevin Durant kicked his flaccid raps in that goofy Nike Hyperize commercial, but for the most part: tattoos. Last fall around this time, Stephen Jackson broke down his brilliant offseason ink, and it made me glad. It’s like the old back-to-school feeling, except there are no tests or grades (so it’s like Bob Huggins-era Cincinnati) and everyone’s really overstated and immature and on their own shit (so it’s like Oak Hill Academy). And so, of course, DeShawn Stevenson of the Wizards shows up at media day with a bunch of goofy tattoos. This post by John Taylor of the Washington Times — one of the very best Moonie-run papers on this coast — features photos of all three. They are, in order, a tattoo of Abraham Lincoln on Stevenson’s adam’s apple, a stylized fissure running down the top of his forehead (“because I don’t crack,” Stevenson, um, explained) and a backwards “P,” in the Pittsburgh Pirates font, on his cheekbone. Good times, right?
Well, the P being backwards is weird. But the P being there at all — especially given the Fresno-born Stevenson (above) explaining that it’s there in honor of the Pittsburgh Pirates, which he claims as his favorite baseball team — is kind of jarring. “There’s no reason the ‘P’ has to be backward,” Bethlehem Shoals writes at The Sporting News. “I call gang sign,” he adds. I’m not sure what else to call it, personally, and the gang-sign thing makes more sense than… well, how do you get a tattoo backwards, and what’s up with the giant 5’s around Abe Lincoln’s face? Pardon me while I get all esoteric on you:
Stevenson’s Lincoln tattoo is bordered on both sides by the number five, which — like the stylized Pittsburgh P — is pure, familiar Bloods gang semaphore. (I know this from wikipedia, obviously). There are explanations for all that on the other side of that link, but it all goes back to ultra-arcane, byzantinely corny secret-society street gang stylistics. Whether this is just Stevenson being a doofus and getting a bunch of tattoos because he can’t think of anything else to do and me being (a devastatingly handsome masculine version of) Tipper Gore or not, I don’t know. I mean, Abraham Lincoln is on the five-dollar bill, after all, and maybe that’s the only reason why D-Steve thought to put those huge fives on both sides of his neck.
But if Stevenson really did just get a bunch of gang tattoos on his face and neck, that would… really have been fucking stupid of him. At least J.R. Smith can just take down his Twitter page when it gets too five-poppin’ for the Nuggets. Stevenson’s going to have to walk around explaining that the thing on his cheek isn’t a stylized, over-angular “9,” but rather his un-erasable statement of for-lyfe fealty to one of the most deservedly loathed organizations in the world. Or a botched salute to the Andy Van Slyke/Barry Bonds Pirates of the early ’90s. Either way: even Stephen Jackson thinks this isn’t a good look. Thanks to Brendan Flynn and Sid Kapstenel for the links.