Crazy Cuts and Intricate Ink: The Most Eccentric Athletes
Athletes at the highest level soak up the spotlight. The vast majority of them crave the attention and perform better when the stage is bigger, when the eyes are all on them. For them, it’s just a part of the job. But for some athletes, the spotlight of the biggest stage isn’t enough. To gain that extra dose of attention, that extra set of eyes, some athletes sport crazy haircuts and ink their bodies with wild designs that captivate even the cursory fan. Without further ado, here are some of the most eccentric, eye-catching athletes in sports history.
Chris “Birdman” Andersen
Chris “Birdman” Andersen is widely recognized by basketball fans across the globe. However, Birdman isn’t most known for his on-court moves or his impact on the game; it’s his colorful full-sleeve tattoos on both arms that rise to – and cover — his neck that has burned an image in the eyes of fans. It’s his crazy hairstyles that change like the seasons that make this high-flying bench player so memorable.
According to Birdman’s tattoo artist in Denver, about 65 percent of the big-man’s body is covered by ink. The remaining 35 percent of his body probably are in spots where the sun don’t shine.
Besides the glaring display of ink the Birdman adorns, he’s easily identifiable by his signature gelled-Mohawk. Although the Mohawk is his best known ‘do, Andersen isn’t afraid of mixing it up. He’s known to rock long hair in a sweatband or a shortly-cropped Mohawk paired with a grizzly beard.
Dennis Rodman’s image is ubiquitous. The power forward was an absolute monster on the glass and became one of the league’s most formidable defenders. He could lock down anyone, block shots, steal, and rebound like few others in basketball history. He was a crucial piece in helping the Bulls complete their second three-peat and helped the Pistons win back-to-back championships before his time in the Windy City.
Yet, for the casual fan, Rodman is more known for his exotic looks. He’s got a body full of tattoos and piercings and his hair changes colors like a mood ring.
Diving deep into the complex, confusing, and – potentially – disturbing worm hole of Rodman’s tattoos would be like dissecting a sheep’s brain. Better left for the pros. But what we can tell you is his designs are far out there. Some of them are not safe for viewing at work while others are just downright strange. His hair styles can match his team’s logo or that of a leopard and his piercings look, to say the least, painful.
If you think “fear the beard” is associated with James Harden, you’d be right. Kind of. Before Harden grew out his gnarly beard, Giants high-heat throwing closer Brian Wilson was making the Bay and beard wearers proud.
Closers have to have a certain level of intensity about them. They have piercing eyes, a hat worn low, and a menacing stare. Wilson had all of them, plus a long black beard that only added to the already intense image.
Besides throwing heaters in the upper 90s and rocking baseball’s most famed beard, Wilson has a bunch of tattoos, a few crazy hairstyles, and an eccentric personality. These factors made him one of the biggest names in baseball for a few years while the Giants became one of baseball’s modern dynasties.
Wilson and his beard will forever live on in Giants lore, and although his pitching days seem over, Wilson’s ability to draw interest in a nicely-groomed, massive beard forever changed the facial hair landscape in baseball.
Robert Swift. Everyone’s favorite heavily-tattooed ginger not named Ed Sheeran. His story is incredibly depressing, a talent wasted thanks to drug addiction, bad financial habits, and problems with the law.
When Swift entered the league fresh out of high school, his future looked bright. He was an 18-year-old kid making millions, and that money – when it wasn’t used to throw wild parties, buy guns and motorcycles, and pay for his family’s debts – was spent on ink.
Swift entered the league with a wild mess of bright orange hair on his head and no visible tattoos. When he left the league, broke and broken, his arms, back, and chest were covered in designs, from tribal images to portraits of family.
Adding to Swift’s outlandish hairstyles and body art would be the black nails he occasionally painted on himself. He’s a real-life cautionary tale for how to avoid crashing and burning.
The 2018 NBA Finals were lackluster. They ended in a sweep, weren’t competitive, and gave Golden State their third title in four years. There was, however, one exciting moment that came in Game 1. With the game tied at 107, Smith corralled a missed free throw in the offensive zone with 4.5 seconds left on the clock — ample time to put up a good shot or pass.
But much to the ire of Cavs fans — not to mention LeBron James — Smith did neither. Instead, in one of the biggest bonehead plays in sports history, Smith dribbled out the clock, thinking the Cavs were actually ahead. Rather than stealing Game 1 on the road, Cleveland was forced to play in overtime where they were soundly defeated.
Besides this idiotic move, Smith is known in the league as one of the most heavily tattooed players. His arms show much more ink than skin. His chest is decorated with portraits and tributes to his basketball career. His back features creepy clown images while his neck affectionately displays the Young Money logo, the rap group Smith closely aligns with.
Neymar is one of the more dual-threat athletes on this list because of his flashy, ever-changing hair styles and highly visible tattoos.
The Brazilian superstar is known for a few things: goal-scoring ability, willingness to flop like a fish out of water, and never wearing the same hairstyle twice. His looks and antics ensure that everyone knows it.
Just a quick Google search of “Neymar haircut” will render thousands of pictures, no two of which are the same. He’s rocked the Street Fighter look, mohawk, bleached blonde fade, and countless other styles that are often imitated, but never duplicated.
On the ink side of things, Neymar has a full-sleeve tattoo on his left arm and is steadily filling in the space on his right arm. He’s nowhere near the level of Mauro Icardi in terms of chest tattoos, but the combination of fame and style makes Neymar one of the most unmistakable athletes in sports.
He undoubtedly had the most famous beard in the NFL. Introducing former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel. A simple search of Brett Keisel will easily produce many more photos of his glorious reddish-beard and handlebar mustache than him in a helmet and pads.
Keisel appears to be a rugged, burly man, and this image is only bolstered by the massive beard that flows out of Keisel’s helmet. Swap out the helmet for a fedora and you get one of the world’s strongest hipsters.
Keisel’s beard isn’t just for looks and it arguably has more substance than style. The beard has its own website where passionate beard fans can purchase bearded t-shirts in black and yellow. The beard also helped raise money for charity in Keisel’s “Shear the Beard” event, held annually in Pittsburgh.
The two-time Super Bowl champion has had a huge impact off the field thanks to what made him famous on field- his beard.
Playoff beards dominate the NHL landscape every year. Players grow them as good-luck charms and teams can use it as a rallying cry, because in sports, superstition is the name of the game. The beard, when things are going well, cannot be messed with. When it grows, it goes.
Although a vast majority of professional hockey players sport beards, San Jose’s Joe Thornton really took the memo to heart. He currently sports one of the most ubiquitous beards in sports, and with his age, his beard has a nice amount of gray sprinkled in, adding a touch of class and wisdom.
Thornton’s beard has yet to bring him a ring, but it has brought him a lot of attention. The beard has also been the subject of some serious abuse. Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, engaged in a heated tussle with the larger Thornton, decided to rip a chunk of hair from the massive beard. If Thornton wasn’t already heated, going back to the bench with a chunk of his sweet beard missing would surely ignite a fire.
One of the few players in the NHL to rival Thornton for beard supremacy would be his teammate, Brent Burns.
Burns’ beard draws almost as much interest as his gameplay. On the ice, Burns is a notable defender with a wild personality. He sports a bushy black beard and odd man-bun. He also rocks a signature toothless smile.
Burns’ three distinct bodily features combined with his solid skills have made him one of the NHL’s more marketable players. He’s a fan favorite in San Jose and isn’t afraid to scrap with anyone. So far, his beard has made it out in one piece, unlike teammate Joe Thornton’s.
For body art, Burns has that department covered too in the form of a sleeve tattoo on his left arm, but thanks to the jersey, it’s never seen.
Have you picked up on the theme here? That players who like to stand out a bit more do so with tattoos and facial hair? For closer John Axford, he prefers a nice blend of both.
During the 2011 season, Axford won the American Mustache Institute’s Mustached American of the Year award. Yes, that’s a mouthful (or faceful). But that 2011 season shouldn’t define this bearded virtuoso’s facial hair career. He’s spotted numerous styles throughout his playing career, garnering the attention of multiple national publications.
Axford’s diverse facial hair styles aren’t the only eye-grabbing feature on the closer’s body. His left arm is colorfully – and fully – inked with roses, the names of his children, and a maple leaf, signifying his Canadian roots.
Man, myth, or legend. That is up for debate depending on who you ask. But what’s not up for debate is how often Zlatan likes to take off his shirt in celebration. Hey, he deserves it because the shirt comes off when the Swedish star buries the ball in the back of the net. And when Ibrahimovic’s shirt is off, one can’t help but notice the shocking amount of ink on his body- especially on his back.
Many people may believe that Zlatan’s chest is entirely covered in ink, but that’s not the case. In a stunt to raise awareness for child hunger, Zlatan temporarily tattooed the names of 15 children on his chest. Following a goal, Zlatan removed the shirt for the world to see his altruistic publicity stunt.
However, his back is fully adorned with a myriad of (real) complex and intricate designs, each with symbolic meaning for the prolific goal scorer.
Linsanity captured audiences worldwide for a short period in 2012 during Jeremy Lin’s stint for the New York Knicks. He captivated people with his inspiring play and interesting backstory, but was somewhat of a flash in the pan. The hype surrounding him began to die down as the holes in his game became exposed.
So rather than fizzling out of the league, Lin decided to change up his identity.
When Lin came into the league, he had a traditional haircut. A simple fade that wasn’t newsworthy. Then the spotlight began to shine on Lin and he rode that wave to big contracts and celebrity status, yet his play declined year after year.
So instead of fixing his jumper or other aspects of his game, Lin went to the barber. He donned an insanely-tall gelled mohawk. Then he ditched that for an awkward, multi-layered man-bun. Those two styles weren’t enough. He decided to get dreadlocks on the top of his head with an aggressive shave on the sides. At this point, Lin looks like the human form of that terrifying main character in the film Alien vs. Predator. His style keeps evolving and his game keeps regressing. Maybe he should focus on his skills rather than his style.
Elfrid Payton is more famous for his hair than his handles. It’s a matter of fact.
The name Elfrid Payton elicits thoughts of Payton’s mop-top flopping around in his face as he drives in the lane. There’s also a strong chance that Payton’s obnoxious hairstyle has actually impacted his game in quantifiable ways. Numerous videos show Payton’s mop-top bouncing in his face, obscuring his vision.
In one video, Payton throws up an air ball a few feet from the basket moments after his hair obstructed his vision. However, the style seems to be in the past. Payton has cut his signature style in favor of a more user-friendly look. It remains to be seen whether or not his play will improve but what is for certain is that whether he puts up a brick or not, his hair will not be to blame.
The Beard. James Harden entered the league looking like a naked mole rat and quickly sought to dispel this look. He didn’t do it by bulking up in the gym or adding tattoos.
He did it by growing the most famous beard in the NBA. Harden went from unassuming rookie to lethal assassin, an emotionless mercenary capable of dropping defenders to the court with the NBA’s most devastating crossover.
Harden’s pitch-black beard has become so famous that players, fans, and coaches colloquially refer to him — the player — as “The Beard,” rather than James Harden.
With each passing season, Harden’s image, and beard, continues to grow. He’s a league MVP and was one game away from a second Finals appearance.
The Boz. The man who was destroyed by Bo Jackson, became one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, and rocked some serious style on his nearly square, G.I. Joe-esque head.
When Brian Bosworth was at Oklahoma, he was the BMOC, or Big Man on Campus. He dominated college football and had the most notorious mullet in American sports. It was bright blonde, featured three stripes on the sides, and was accentuated by his signature red bandana. He was Brock Lesnar before Brock Lesnar.
When he moved to the NFL, Boz saw his ability to perform at a high-level decline rapidly. This, however, didn’t stop him from being a mullet god in the eyes of many. He kept rocking the outlandish ‘do, swapped the red bandana for a blue Seahawk one, cut more intricate designs in his hair, and wore a small gold earring on his left ear to add some extra pizzazz. He became a flamboyant caricature of an 80’s action hero. The only things missing were corny explosions and laughable special effects.
Three seasons after his NFL debut, the Boz was out of the league and took up acting, a venue that seemed just as suitable to him as football.
Alexi Lalas was all things 1990s. He was the original Red Rocket while playing professional soccer and representing Team USA.
Let’s start with the hair. The defender had long ginger locks that he pinned to his head with a variety of sweatbands and bandanas. Right off the bat, Lalas looked like a goon.
Next up was his beard. Also ginger, Lalas’ beard was a massive display of chaos. It was shaped to a point, extended well beyond the chin for everyone to see, and was paired with a bushy mustache.
But crazy hair and an even crazier beard would be nothing without sideburns, right? Fortunately, Lalas didn’t neglect this important facial feature. He had triangular sideburns that expanded in width as they descended towards his jaw, giving him a look that cannot be replicated. He took three separate styles and threw them into one chaotic amalgamation.
To top off one of the most outlandish looks, Lalas wore a quintessential ‘90s style necklace made of black string with a ring acting as its pendant. Also, in case you were wondering: yes, Lalas did wear a Puka shell bracelet.
Red helmet, red sweater, and red pants. The Calgary Flames of the 1980s monopolized red better than any team in the NHL, and it’s only fitting that one of their best skaters, Hall of Fame winger Larry McDonald, rocked one of sports’ bushiest red beards in history.
The man’s ‘stache was unkempt and absolutely wild. Its bright red perfectly contrasted his piercing blue eyes while matching his all-red uniform. Imagine a handlebar mustache that gets left ungroomed for months on end. That is what this bearded legend had.
Not much has been divulged from the mustached McDonald, but we do know that if he ever took a puck to the upper lip, his natural mouth guard would probably have saved a few teeth.
Lastly, although McDonald is primarily known as the mustache guy, he definitely sported the beard at times, and it was no less glorious.
Another hockey player. Surprise, surprise. But Mike Commodore – best known for his time with the Carolina Hurricanes — has rightfully earned his way onto this list with his impressive full-beard/curly hair combination.
Emerging from Commodore’s helmet was a bright red poof of curly hair that spilled out by the ears. To make this look even more notable, the leprechaun looking Commodore donned a full, bright-red beard. When his helmet was off, any sense of hair containment was gone. Commodore’s hair ballooned into a massive puff that was anything but intimidating, which is ironic because the 6-foot-4 defender was prone to fighting.
Imagine losing a fight on center ice to a guy who looks like he’s fresh out of a comic-con convention supporting a new movie about modern-day leprechauns. Fortunately for his opponents, Commodore wasn’t the most skilled of fighters.
He’s an NBA champion and proud representative of the five-dollar bill fan club. If you’re unsure of what I’m referring to, take a glance at the shooting guard’s neck.
Originally, Stevenson wanted to get a tattoo of Martin Luther King Jr., but that tattoo idea was quickly scooped up by Gilbert Arenas, so Stevenson went with his backup choice, Abe Lincoln. And according to Stevenson, who placed Lincoln’s face smack-dab in the middle of his neck, not many people could recognize what the design depicted, so he decided to turn the design into the bill by adding fives on either side of the face.
Besides this noticeable piece, Stevenson has a few small face tats, a massive back tat that includes the number two – similar to wearing a jersey at all times – and two full-sleeves that cover every inch of available skin.
Heading the ball in soccer can rattle the brain a bit and potentially lead to concussions. Carlos Valderrama, one of the world’s most prolific goal scorers, never had to worry about this, thanks to his outlandish, curly mane.
He, hands down, has the greatest hair in sports history. Imagine the coat of the biggest labradoodle you’ve ever seen. Now double the poof, make the curls tighter, and die it bleach blonde, and that’s what you get for Valderrama’s hair.
Besides having soccer’s biggest mane, Valderrama was known to rock various bead and shell necklaces and bracelets. He reeked of the 90s.
Oh, and his amazing mustache was just a finishing touch for his already bold style. It’s not known whether or not his crazy hair slowed the goal-scorer down, but what we can surmise is that whatever the hair detracted from his speed and ability added tenfold in confidence and swagger.