Archive for Thursday, March 28, 2013

KU players’ tattoos tell life stories

March 28, 2013


Tattooed on Ben McLemore&squot;s right shoulder read the words "Best of Both." Above the words are hands cradling half a world and half a basketball. McLemore explained the tattoo as a representation of coming from poverty and also his success on the basketball court.

Tattooed on Ben McLemore's right shoulder read the words "Best of Both." Above the words are hands cradling half a world and half a basketball. McLemore explained the tattoo as a representation of coming from poverty and also his success on the basketball court.

When Kansas University senior guard Travis Releford looks into a mirror, his mind often goes back to his freshman year when he was only picking up a handful of minutes.

The words “Only God can judge me” are written across his chest. It was his first tattoo.

“I was hearing, ‘He’s not good enough to play at Kansas.’ All types of stuff like that,’” Releford said. “That quote just came across to me. I was just like, ‘If I just think about that every time I hear something like that and keep working, then everything will pay off for me.’

“And so far, it has.”

Though Releford told himself earlier in life he wasn’t going to have a lot of tattoos at a young age, the self-expression became, in his words, “addicting.”

He now has his son, Travis Jr.’s, footprints on his left arm, his area code “816” across his chest and the Kansas City skyline wrapped around his left forearm. And that’s just a small sample.

“I got one, and I was like, ‘This would look good if I add this to it. Then I’ll add that,’” Releford said. “ ... Then you just keep going. Next thing you know, you’re all tatted up.”

About half of the players on the men’s basketball team have tattoos, with most of them turning to ink to help tell their life stories.

KU sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe says tattoos also have brought teammates closer together. Tharpe, along with freshman Ben McLemore and junior Niko Roberts, got matching tattoos — “KUCMB,” which Tharpe says stands for “Kansas University college men’s basketball” — on their arms.

Traylor came up with the idea.

“If it’s going to be on me forever,” Traylor said, “I’ve got to put a lot of thought into it.”

Releford says it’s up to the players to stay responsible financially. That means not spending too much on their hobby with the money they earn.

“We work camps and stuff, so it’s not like we’re using all our money on tattoos,” Releford said. “We know when not to go and just blow our money. I think that’s the key. We don’t just go out and, ‘Oh, we get a scholarship check,’ and spend $500 on a tattoo.”

Releford said a good example would be if a player received $200 from working a camp, he might go spend $100 on a tattoo.

“You save up. But coaches don’t like us spending our money on it,” Traylor said. “They say they’d rather have us buy some food or something like that.

“We definitely slow down a lot. They want us to save.”

Tattoos aren’t for everyone.

Traylor sometimes jokes with freshmen Andrew White III and Landen Lucas, who both have already indicated they won’t be getting any tattoos.

KU center Jeff Withey, who has no tattoos, also likes to poke fun at teammates when he can.

“If they already have a tattoo, I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I’m thinking about getting this.’ And they’ll be like, ‘Man, I already have that,’” Withey said with a smile. “I’ll tell them, ‘Man, you’re copying my idea.’”

Traylor has already thought about his next tattoo, envisioning the words “Windy City” on the inside of his right bicep.

He’s not the only one with future plans.

“I’m just getting started, I feel like,” Releford said. “I don’t have any ideas. I’m just waiting until something comes to my head.”

Here’s a look at some of the Jayhawks’ favorite tattoos:

Player: Ben McLemore

Favorite tattoos: “I’ve got a couple favorites. I’ve got my mom’s name (Sonya) right here (on arm) and pretty much all my siblings. I’ve pretty much got all my family: I’ve got both of my brothers, I’ve got all three of my sisters, all my nieces and nephews and my mom’s name. … I’ve also got a ‘Best of Both’ tattoo (on arm). It’s got half a world and half a basketball, so basically, I’m best at both. Coming from nothing, coming to the top … it’s just a blessing.”

Player: Kevin Young

Tattoo: “I do have a tattoo on my (left) side. It’s a poem that I wrote. Mine’s a little bit more cheesy than all the other guys, but I take pride in myself and the things that I can do. Writing poetry is something that helps me as well. It’s something that I do. I wanted to have that on my body, because that’s something I’m never going to forget — that I can do that, the ability that I have.”

Player: Elijah Johnson

Favorite tattoos: The words “Love” and “Hate,” which appear on back of his left and right arms.

Why he likes the “Love” and “Hate” tattoos: “I’ve got just as much love as I’ve got hate, but at the same time, I’ve kind of spent it, coming from where I come from, going through the stuff I’ve been through. I used to have a lot of hatred in my heart. I’ve spent it in the love to use it in a positive way.”

Player: Jamari Traylor

Favorite tattoos: “This is my dad’s name, and I’ve got the ball and chain because my dad’s in prison. Like the chain is breaking. My grandmother, she died. Rest in peace. … And my mom’s name. This is my first tattoo: Tracy (on right arm with halo on top and devil tail on bottom). This signifies our relationship. She’s my angel. Then she gets on my nerves sometimes, so I’ve got the devil tail.”

Player: Travis Releford

Favorite tattoos: “I’ve got ‘816’ on my chest then I’ve got the skyline of Kansas City wrapped around my left forearm. Those are probably my favorite, but all of them are meaningful to me. I’ve got my son’s footprint (too).”

Player: Naadir Tharpe

Favorite tattoo: “My favorite one is definitely my Batman tattoo. I’ve got my dad’s initials at the top that say, ‘My hero.’”

Player: Jeff Withey

On talking to teammates about tattoos: “That’s what I joke about with them. They all are tatted, and I have none. But I always play around with them, like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to get my whole back done. This and that.’ … They’re always talking about getting new tattoos and stuff, but I love to jump into the conversation and kind of stir things up a little bit and just play around with them.”


Body Art


traveler12 5 years, 2 months ago

How do athletes not understand how ugly their tattoos are?

bballwizard 5 years, 2 months ago

This statement is idiotic. Whats your deal FarneyMac? You think because the traveler12 said tatoos are ugly you think he is white??? You are a racist and you dont know it. Or maybe you do know it.

flloyd 5 years, 2 months ago

How do these spoiled and pampered athletes afford tattoos?

KEITHMILES05 5 years, 2 months ago

I appreciate and respect what these guys say how the things they have on their bodies mean something to him.

However, out in the real world if you are covered all over your arms that very well may perceived as a deteriment in job searches. I know employers who require tatoos to be covered while at work.

I understand having 1 or 2 on the arm area but to be tatted up and down entirely is too much. Having them in places not seen is something entirely different.

Lastly, just because we have favorites sayings, friends, family, etc. doesn't mean we advertised on our bodies. But, it is inside what counts most and alot of people draw instant conclusions of people who are tatted up.

I appreciate this papers concern to talk with these young men and their insights into their own beliefs.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

Tattoos are pretty expensive. The story I'm hearing is that those with multiple tattoos have more disposable income than I would have thought.

Adrienne Sanders 5 years, 2 months ago

Indeed they are expensive... but whether you can afford them or not is mostly a matter of priority- if that's what you like to do with your disposable income, then that's what you'll spend it on. Other people may spend it on fine dining or woodworking supplies or whatever their hobby may be. Some may think tattoos are a waste of money but hey, at least you'll have it forever.

Jim Tebow 5 years, 2 months ago

The players get something like $700-$800 a month in spending money per their scholarship. Their living (athletic dorm) is paid for, and their meals are free on campus. Books are covered in the scholarship too. So, when you have no expenses, except a cell phone, $800 is quite a bit of money for a 20 year old kid

mom_of_three 5 years, 2 months ago

Their meals may be free, but who eats only three meals a day and no snacks or anything?? Athletes spend money on food for their dorm, and other things, such as toothpaste, etc.

George_Braziller 5 years, 2 months ago

I haven't eaten three meals a day since I lived at home and my mom made me. Breakfast about 6:30 in the morning then dinner around 8:00 in the evening. Twice a day is enough for me and I don't need any snacks in between.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

In a generation or two, people without body art will be looked at with suspicion. To each his own.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 2 months ago

Just a couple petty questions: BM has "best of both" blow a 1/2 basketball and 1/2 of something else. What world is that? Cuz it's not earth. Who calls KU men's basketball "Kansas University College Men's Basketball"? Maybe those who are teenagers and have only been around KU for a year or two I guess.

friendlyjhawk 5 years, 2 months ago

Tattoo's are expensive. Where did all these poor boys get the money to spend on them? Rhetorical question.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 2 months ago

I can't imagine for the life of me why you care what these tattoos will look like on these guys in 60 years. Your "tramp stamp" reference is judgemental in the extreme. You should know better.

bigtex 5 years, 2 months ago

My Dad was in the Navy during the Korean War, he did not get any tattoos but a some of his friends did. One of his friends had a tattoo of a boat propeller put on each of his butt cheeks. Can you imagine his 84-year-old navy buddy at the assistant living facility !!! My opinion tattoos look trashy .

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 2 months ago

I am surprised by some of your comments.

Tattoo, like how ladies want to dress, is up to the individual. Do you think a woman who dressed sexily deserved to be looked at as a slut or deserved to be molested or raped? The answer is really clear. Yes, employers have the right to ask them to cover up and dress appropriately since employers are paying. Tattoo is the same.... do you judge someone by their tattoo? My answer is no, they should look at their resume and brain before they employ them. They have the right to request you cover up your tattoo while at work. But their tattoos are their own problem, not for us to judge.

mom_of_three 5 years, 2 months ago

I personally am not a fan of numerous tattoos, but to each his own.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 2 months ago

I find this front page story to be grotesque and stupid. Both the story itself and the topic.

I seriously doubt that any of these young men have weighed the consequences of going out into the real world (most will not be professional basketball players) and the impression that they will give to prospective employers, co-workers and friends. Most people regard this disfigurement of one;ss body as a bit gretesque and people that spend this amount of money on such crap as a bit irresponsible.

Centerville 5 years, 2 months ago

The problem with a tatoo is that it nails you forever to one time and one place. To quote Instapundit: "For how many decades of your life do you have to be the person you were in your twenties? "

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

So . . . don't get a tattoo and it won't be your problem.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 2 months ago

I love the tattoos. I think they are great and I would like to get one, I am thinking of a Mexican red kneed tarantula between my should blades so I could show it off in the warm weather. I would also like one of the Surprise which is Captain Jack Aubrey's ship in the Aubrey/Maturin series.

I do not understand the aversion to tattoos, but am willing to accept that if you grew up being told how bad they are that is how you think.

There are tattooists that have created unique designs and have the legal right to protect them so that they can't be copied.

I would say that it is their business how they spend their money, since to date not one KU basketball player has approached me with the request that I make up a budget for him, I am just going to stay out of that.

oldbaldguy 5 years, 2 months ago

back in the day, sailors and criminals were the tatoo aficiados. knock yourself out if that is what you want. try to get a job.

Jen43 5 years, 2 months ago

I consider tattoing body mutilation. I see nothing attractive about it on anyone's body. There are worse examples of tatooing. Watch some of the prison/jail shows. Some of those guys even have their face completely covered. And they wonder why they can't get a job when they get out?

Jeff Nolting 5 years, 2 months ago

You know - some say that the human skin is like a art canvas - to me - tattoo's are foul and rank - it is a defoulment to the human body - if you can not show love or respect to your family member or your significant other with out a tattoo - there is something wrong.

Me I see some of the most attractive women here in Lawrence - and I aspect 50% has at least one tattoo - most say everyone else has one - I guess if everyone else hit their finger with a hammer - then I would need to do such also ? hmmm

Where I work at some of the fellow co-workers have tattoo's - exposed - to me it is a ugly thing - should have have to be able to see them in the work place - today grown men wear earrings , women get piercings , etc - why can't a person just be happy with the body that God gave them ? Some say society has changed - no it has not - the people have changed.

For the better or worse ????

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 2 months ago

Onatop, no one is saying that you should hit yourself with a hammer. Neither is anyone saying that you should get a tattoo. As long as it is not abusive, why does it matter what method family members use to show love to each other? If someone does not tell their family members "I love you" on a daily basis but does small kind things for them each day, is there also something wrong? I say let people express themselves in ways that are comfortable to themselves and the ones they are expressing themselves to.

It is OK to find tattoos unattractive. I wonder, though, if you have similar objections to working with people who have no body art (whether tattoo or piercing) who you find unattractive? Your logic seems to be that you find working with pierced and tatted colleagues offensive because it is an ugly thing. Should you also be free from working with ugly-looking people?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 2 months ago

I don't get it. I have saw some really beautiful tattoos, how could you not see them as lovely. Tattoos are like anything else, there are good designs and bad designs, some are better working with the needle than others. There is nothing wrong or ugly in tattoos in and of themselves. People all over the world have been doing this for centuries, people who were not sailors or criminals, just decent ordinary people. In some parts of the world it is part of a tribal or family ritual handed down though the generations.

fiddleback 5 years, 2 months ago

All this shaming about the aesthetics as if all you scolds can somehow stumble upon an objective reasoning. Save yourself the trouble-- TATTOOS CAN"T BE OBJECTIVELY CONDEMNED. Thicker undershirts will effectively conceal the tattoos when these men start jobs, and who really gives a damn what you look like when you're a wrinkly retiree? What person over 65 even bears his shoulders or chest except to bathe or swim??

Yes, I too choose not to spend my money this way, but it's easy to see the appeal. Releford's "Only God can judge me" quote provides good insight. These young men are relentlessly scrutinized and valued almost entirely for their movements on the court rather than the contents of their heads and hearts. Branding often suggests being physically owned (think livestock, slavery or the Holocaust), but this allows them to quietly reclaim their bodies and display what matters most to them as source of empowerment. Will they eventually regret more extensive tattooing? Perhaps, but there are certainly worse things to blow money on. Lighten up.

jack22 5 years, 2 months ago

I had noticed the KUCMB tattoo before and wondered what it might mean. I would have thought KUB would have sufficed, doesn't the CM or "college men's" part of it kind of go without saying? Or maybe they just wanted to be sure to not be confused with the KU high school women's band squad?

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