It is almost expected of athletes to have tattoos, and much harder to think of a player with no ink than at least one tattoo. Unlike many other professions where tattoos may be frowned upon, professional athletes are able to get tattoos and have them on display whilst they are on the job. This is most notable in basketball where sleeveless jerseys display the entire arm, with many NBA players taking full advantage of this. Many of the tattoos that you find on athletes will be a mark of the difficult journey they have been on to reach where they are today, many will allude to their faith (also very common in pro sports), some are related to their roots and others might be in relation to the sport itself. Many of these tattoos look great and are part of the player’s identity, but there are also many tattoos in professional sports which are downright weird.
These strange tattoos may be hilarious, intriguing, alarming, bizarre or just plain awful. Many athletes with these weird tattoos will attempt to cover them up and hide them from public view, whilst some will wear them proudly for all to see, leaving their mums shaking their head in disappointment. There are then of course a few which are positioned in places where they cannot be hidden, such as the neck or even face, an extremely bold decision no matter what your profession is.
It is these bizarre tattoos that add to the intrigue of many of these professional athletes, and many of these players have a large following for their character that matches these tattoos. Tattoos are, generally, widely accepted in modern day society, and they are hugely prevalent in professional sports where more athletes are inked than not. Some are tasteful, but there are enormous amounts that are not and are very much on display.
Here are the 20 craziest athlete tattoos.
20 Scott Spiezio – Woman Undressing
Getting a girlfriend’s name tattooed on your body is one thing, but a large image of her provocatively undressing on your entire bicep is another. Not only is it a little too personal for outsiders and hugely risky, but you have to feel sorry for Spiezio’s kids who have to look at an image of the woman that played a hand in raising them undressing any time Scott has his guns out (which is a lot I would imagine).
19 Jon Rauch – Flaming Baseball
Jon Rauch has a mean fastball, sure. But did he need to mark this with a flaming baseball tattoo? Not only is it cheesy, but it also looks as if it was drawn by a child. The tiny tattoo has a cartoonish quality to it, with the flames only looking like flames because of the colouring. Just to hammer home the idea, he also has flames on his right arm, but strangely these are of a completely different style to those coming off the baseball.
18 Jason Williams – Whit Eboy
The flair and extraordinary passing ability of Jason Williams is sorely missed in today’s game, and he was a fan favourite with many. ‘White Chocolate’ as he was proudly known, certainly was a very intelligent basketball player, but his Whit Eboy tattoo across his knuckles may not have been the brightest thing he has ever done. The typical ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ knuckle tattoo is a bold choice, but at least the lettering enables one on each hand. For this tattoo to work, White Chocolate needs to put his two fists together so that it reads White Boy. Still, at least he wears it with pride and it is spelled right.
17 Tim Duncan – Evil Jester/clown
Not only does it seem weird that The Big Fundamental is inked, but if you manage to see what it actually is then you will find it quite unsettling. The tattoo, which just pokes out from beneath his jersey on his right shoulder, is of a rather evil looking jester/clown. The fact that it peeks out from his jersey makes this an even more evil looking tattoo, and certainly not what you would expect from Timmy. He also has a second tattoo, much more in-line with what you would expect, which is of a wizard holding a basketball located on his chest.
16 Alessandro Diamanti – Smiley Face
This is the sort of image you would expect someone’s friends to draw on them after passing out at a party, and it is certainly one of the simpler designs that you could possibly opt for. The Fiorentina midfielder (on loan from Guangzhou Evergrande) has a very simple smiley face tattooed on the back of his right leg; at least he can cover it up with his socks when playing. What makes this tattoo stranger is the fact that on the same spot on his other leg, Diamanti now has an intricate portrait tattooed, which makes the smiley face look even simpler and out of place.
15 J.R. Smith – Swish
J.R. Smith is one of the most heavily tattooed players in all of sports, and this means that he has a number of great designs, but also a few questionable ones. One of the more questionable ones is strange because of its location, as he has his nickname “swish” tattooed right at the top of his throat. The positioning of this means that it is only legible when J.R. sticks his neck out like a bird, as otherwise it becomes scrunched up with skin. This does not bode well for when Swish reaches old age. For some reason a J.R. Smith fan decided to copy J.R and get the Swish tattoo along with the rest of his neck ink done himself (this includes stars, ‘Young Money’ and a Yankees style NY logo). To each his own.
14 Andre Santos – Don’t Let Anyone Take your Happiness
The saying “no one can take your pain away, so don’t let anyone take your happiness” is the kind of lame Facebook status update you would expect from a 12-year-old, not what a fully grown man has tattooed on his leg. There are about six different fonts used for the phrase, which also gives it a slight ransom note feel which only adds to the weirdness of the Brazilian left back’s tattoo. He got the ink during his unsuccessful stint with Arsenal in North London; perhaps it was aimed at Arsene who gave Santos very little playing time.
13 Mitch King – Mama’s Boy
Even if it is true, it is not something that you would expect a 280 pound, 28-year-old man to advertise, except for maybe Bobby Boucher. With “Mama’s” tattooed on one bicep and “Boy” tattooed on the other, King is famous for flexing his arms to show off his ink after a sack or good play, and I’m sure his mama is ever so proud when he does. Ordinarily this is something that would cause endless teasing from friends or team-mates, but this is hard to do when it is clearly something he takes pride in, and I dare anyone to try and tease the huge defensive end.
12 Stephen Jackson – Praying Hands Holding a Gun
Stephen Jackson has been involved in a number of high profile controversies in his career, and these include a few felony charges too. One of the most notable charges is for criminal recklessness, after firing a gun into the air at a strip club in Indianapolis. Much like his character, his ink is bold and will upset a lot of people. His most controversial piece is in the middle of his chest, depicting praying hands holding a gun in front of a church window. Praying hands are one of the more common tattoos that you will see, but having a gun in these hands is not something that you will see every day and the tattoo has caused many raised eyebrows in the sporting world.
11 Stephon Marbury – Starbury Logo
It feels like an eternity ago that Stephon Marbury was breaking ankles and electrifying crowds, as the former star NBA point guard had a troubled few years before jumping ship and joining the Beijing Ducks in the Chinese Basketball Association. His nickname, Starbury, became a brand and he endorsed a line of sneakers that were available at very low costs so that more people could afford them. A noble gesture, but there really was no need to get the Starbury logo tattooed on the side of his head. An athlete getting a face tattoo will always draw comparisons with another certain athlete, and unfortunately Marbury has similarly had a troubled time as a professional sportsman.
10 Mario Balotelli – I am the Punishment of God
Never too far from the headlines, Balotelli shocked many in 2012 after celebrating a goal with some new ink. He opted for a Genghis Khan quote that reads “I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you”. Getting a quote from someone responsible for more deaths than Hitler and Stalin will always raise a few eyebrows, but I’m sure Brendan Rodgers finds himself agreeing with the quote as he desperately tries to get Balotelli to perform this season.
9 Andrei Kirilenko – World of Warcraft
This is the kind of tattoo that you would find on the killer in a horror film, and instead of making AK-47 look tough or intimidating it is just straight up scary. The evil flying beast on his back turns out to be a World of War Craft character, which only makes it weirder. The alarming tattoo shocked many, and it seems that Kirilenko has realized just how terrifying it is as the ink has become significantly less visible over time, indicating that he is having it removed. Phew.
8 Vince Young – V. Young
If, for whatever reason, Vince Young’s jersey had ever gone missing or ripped during a game then it would have been fine because people would still be able to identify him. In bold characters, similar to what you find on the back of a jersey, Vince has "V. Young" tattooed across his back with an enormous cross underneath. You will notice a lot of players have their own name tattooed on themselves (in case they get lost), but to have it done in the same space and similar font to what you get on the back of a jersey is just bizarre. At least he stopped there and didn’t get his number tattooed on his back and chest.
7 DeShawn Stevenson – Abraham Lincoln
You can understand the reasoning for getting Abraham Lincoln tattooed on your body, although Stevenson openly admitted to originally wanting Martin Luther King (before Gilbert Arenas stole his idea) but to get it right in the centre of your neck is very odd. When Stevenson talks it almost looks as if Lincoln is talking too due to the tattoo being directly on his Adam’s apple, making it both slightly scary but also hugely entertaining.
To take it to the next level, Stevenson got his neck pierced just below Lincoln’s beard (effectively piercing his neck too). After constantly being asked who that was on his neck, he got the number 5 tattooed either side (Lincoln appears on the American $5 bill).
6 Shawne Merriman – Lights Out
It is common practice for athletes to get their nickname tattooed on their body, and this is understandable as it is a part of their identity. Instead of simply getting “Lights Out”, Merriman took this one step further and decided to illustrate his nickname. The result is a large light switch with what looks like E.T’s finger on the switch, making it look like something a child could have drawn. There is little detail on the tattoo and this seems out of place with the other numerous tattoos that Merriman has on his body. He would often “turn off the switch” when playing which was entertaining, but unfortunately the tattoo is far from the best.
5 Chris Andersen – Free Bird
“Wow”, is usually the reaction when someone sees Birdman for the very first time. Andersen is covered from head to toe in colourful tattoos, and he often dons a striking Mohawk to complete his amazing look. He plays up to his “Birdman” image and is a fan favourite around the league, and also quite an imposing force for the Miami Heat. The artwork is something to behold and respect to Andersen for embracing his image, with a lot of the ink being breathtaking and well designed. The most bold, and questionable, of his tattoos however is “FREE BIRD” in large, colourful text across his neck. Sure it goes with his image, character and nickname (and he is presumably a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan), but such a bold tattoo covering your entire neck is a odd and will take many by surprise, but that’s ok because he’s “as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change”.
4 Larry Sanders – Recieve
There are few things in the world more cringe-worthy than a misspelled tattoo. To make matters worse for Sanders, he got the tattoo on his hand so it is not an area that he can cover up. The tattoo reads “recieve” instead of receive, so clearly both he and the tattoo artist skipped school the day they taught “I before E, except after C”. Ouch. How mistakes like this can be made by both the individual and tattoo artist is beyond me, but respect to Sanders for trying to laugh it off when it was pointed out to him on social media.
3 Artur Boruc – Bent Over Monkey
A number of the tattoos on this list are alarming or strange, but this one is just plain gross. The on loan keeper has a monkey bent over, positioned so that his bellybutton is in the centre of the monkey's backside. The keeper has famously been controversial over the years, including using this tattoo to infuriate Rangers fans during his Glasgow days by writing “Rangers” around the monkey. He seems to be less controversial since joining Saints and being loaned to Bournemouth, but still, the guy has a bent over monkey tattooed in his stomach. I wonder if he’ll live to regret that as he gets older.
2 Marquis Daniels – Shotgun Suicide
Marquis Daniels takes home the award for most disturbing tattoo, and it is also a graphic one which is difficult to hide on his forearm. The tattoo depicts a cartoonish character with a shotgun in its mouth, pulling the trigger with its toe with blood splattering out the back of its head. Above the morbid image it has the text “only the strong survive”. As a piece of art it is impressive, but it isn’t the sort of image that you would want on your own body. It is certainly an image you wouldn’t want your kids to see, and I’m not sure how his friends and family felt when he first showed them this disturbing and troubling image that he wears proudly on his forearm.
1 Mike Tyson – Face Tattoo
Maybe the most famous tattoo in all of sports, and even in celebrity culture, Tyson’s face tattoo shocked the world when he first showed it in 2003. After the career Tyson has had it would take a lot to stun everyone, but he certainly did with the ink that starts above his left eye, curls around the side of his head to beneath the left eye. Face tattoos are not too common, and particularly in the celebrity world, which is what made Tyson’s so bold and anyone that has followed suit (such as Stephon Marbury) will inevitably draw comparisons to Tyson’s character. The ink itself is supposed to represent his “warrior status”, and is similar to those that members of the Maori tribe wore.
There has been no athlete quite like Mike Tyson in history, and he is a bold character that intrigues, scares and baffles many, with this famous tattoo being the perfect representation of his character.