The guy with the Wizard tattoo

“I’m a Wizard for life,” Wizards fan Cory Grubbs recently wrote to John Wall, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster on Twitter. “I hope you all are too!”

It’s a desire many Wizards fans have expressed recently: to lock up the suddenly scary young backcourt duo, with Webster on the wing, for years to come.

Grubbs, though, expressed his own Wizards-for-lifedom with something more permanent than a Twitter hashtag: He got a tattoo of a Wizard on his right pectoral.

Like, an actual Wizard.

“I wanted to get some tattoos that had some meaning behind them,” Grubbs told me this week. “I’m a huge sports fan, and of course the Wizards are my favorite team, so I decided this would be the best to go with.”

Grubbs, you see, has always loved the NBA more than any other sport. Growing up in Woodstock (near I-81, about 90 minutes from D.C.), the Wizards were the closest NBA franchise. When Michael Jordan took the court for Washington, Grubbs — who is now 24 — was hooked.

His first decade-plus of fandom was much like the previous two decades for that franchise, filled with horrendous luck and crushed expectations and lots of mediocrity. But that didn’t matter to Grubbs.

“I’m not a bandwagon fan at all,” he said. “I’ve always been like that. I don’t hop on bandwagons. That’s what’s gonna make the title sweeter one of these years: sticking with them through all the rough years.”

Grubbs has also been a fan of tattoos — he already had three before the Wizard’s emergence. And his friend Jacob Hockman (@jake_hock) is a rising tattoo artist in Harrisonburg, whose work Grubbs admires. So the duo began discussing a potential Wizards design.

Grubbs’s original idea involved both the Wizards and Bullets logos. Hockman came back with the basics of the Wizard design seen here. Grubbs asked about adding a taste of Bullets, so they came up with those actual bullets seen in the background.

“A cool, original design that no one else would have,” Grubbs explained, which seems accurate. “And when you really look at it, you’d say ‘That’s a Wizards tattoo, that’s pretty bad-ass.’ ”

His dad isn’t a sports fan but is into tattoos, so he thought it was cool. His mom is fine with tattoos that can be covered by shirts. I pointed out that many D.C. basketball fans have rebelled against the idea of spell-casting bearded Wizards representing their pro hoops team, which Grubbs acknowledged.

“I think it’s a pretty neat name,” he said. “And I’ve always liked the team — whatever they did, that’s what I like. Everyone I’ve talked to seemed to think it’s pretty bad-ass and seemed to really like it. I haven’t had any negative reactions. And if I do, no big deal. I like it, so that’s what really matters.”

Others have asked what he would do if the team ever changes its name again — “looks like I’ll just have to get some more ink,” he joked.

And regardless of the tattoo, Grubbs is with the team for life. He goes to a half-dozen games a year despite the distance. He’s owned Michael Jordan and Rip Hamilton jerseys, John Wall and Bradley Beal jerseys. He has a jersey signed by most members of last year’s forgettable roster. And he blogs about the franchise for Blog So Hard Sports. Which leads to the natural question: does he have another Wizards tattoo in mind?

“Not now,” he said with a laugh. “I guess down the road I might add something more to it, depending on the team’s direction. Hopefully I’ll add a championship trophy in the next five to 10 years.”

(Read more about the tattoo at Wizards XTRA.)

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · March 26, 2013