A surprising number of media reports have dealt with John Wall’s thoughts on tattoos, despite the fact that until recently he didn’t have any.
“He is mindful of his appearance — he has no tattoos and dresses neatly,” the Philadelphia Daily News wrote shortly before the 2010 draft.
“From all indications, he has great character,” then-Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said around the same time. “I know there was an article in the paper, and he talked about how he wears his jeans up at his waist and doesn’t wear them down low like a lot of guys because he feels he has an image. Kids are looking up to him. He doesn’t have any tattoos. He cut his braids off when he was 14 years old. Never thought about growing them back.”
“Wall has declined to get tattoos because of concerns over his image for marketing reasons, but he is considering getting one on his chest, considering it strongly enough that he has a specific design in mind,” The Post’s Eric Prisbell wrote around the same time.
“As Wall completed a workout in Los Angeles, reporters noticed that he had no tattoos,” the New York Times added. “Wall said he wanted one as a teenager, but [his mother] told him no when he asked to have a portrait of his late father, John Carroll Wall, inked on his chest.”
“When I first cut my hair and all that and didn’t get any tattoos, that was the main thing, having a clean image coming into this,” Wall told Michael Lee the summer after he was drafted. “That’s what [his advisors] want, to help you to be more marketable. And if you don’t stay in the league a long time, it helps you get jobs after this.”
“Wall flashes a bright smile,” Washingtonian’s Edward G. Robinson wrote before the guard began his second season. “He shakes your hand but prefers a fist bump. His hair is cropped close, and he sports diamond studs in his ears. He has no tattoos. ‘I’ve been in the chair,’ he says, but ink doesn’t quite fit the image he’s crafting.”
“A sign that the tattoo fad in the NBA might be fading, some of the most recognizable young stars in the game (John Wall, Brandon Knight, Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook) do not have tattoos,” Sports Illustrated wrote just last month.
Welp. Back up the narrative truck, and unload all that baggage. Because Wall now has several tattoos, with plans to get more before the next season begins. Although, truth be told, you might never notice them if you only watch him on the basketball court.
“He’s trying to do it like KD; he wants all his tats to not be seen,” said his tattoo artist, the Georgia-based Randy Harris of Tattoos by Randy, who also has done the vast majority of Kevin Durant’s body art, as well as tattoos for Wale, Allen Iverson, Monta Ellis and a host of other NBA stars. “He wants to still respect his mom and those things, but there’s a whole ‘nother part of him. Everybody’s got tattoos.”
And so within the past month, Harris created an homage to Raleigh on Wall’s midsection, complete with the skyline, area code and signature interstate-40 road sign of the point guard’s hometown — “kind of a tribute to where he started,” as Harris put it. “All his stomach tattoos represent where he’s from.”
A star adorns the middle of Wall’s chest. Above one breast is a tribute to his mother, which includes her name and a reference to Wall as a mama’s boy. On his back are the words “Great Wall,” made out of bricks; Harris eventually plans to tattoo the University of Kentucky logo — and possibly other symbols — on top of that “wall.”
“I think he’s gonna finish his back and probably get the rest of his chest done,” Harris said. “He’s going to get more before the season. Trust me. You’ll see me up in Washington.”
The work thus far, though, has been done in Southern California, where Harris said Wall is working out with the same shooting coach who trains Durant. Yup, there’s that name again.
“A lot of people ask me why I get them; I always was a big fan of ink but it took me some time to get ready and prepare for that needle,” Durant said in a video posted on his Web site a couple years ago. “A lot of people kind of dub me as the perfect guy, which I’m far from. I make mistakes. I like to have fun….My mom told me I could get tattoos, but I can’t get them on my arms. She was always big on not letting them show, I guess….You like it or not, I’m still the same person no matter what….I’m the same person. I’ve just got some tattoos.”