J.R. Smith displays his palms, the only bare skin on his body (Jim McIsaac/ Getty).
New York Knicks reserve guard and Sixth Man of the Year candidate J.R. Smith is well known for having a lot of tattoos. It's his trademark, along with taking ill-advised shots and posting inappropriate comments and photos to social media. Many NBA players are serious about their body art, but Smith is near the top of the list.
So it's probably worth taking him seriously when he makes a promise about a tattoo. If the Knicks win the title this year, J.R. says he'll get a new one to honor the accomplishment. From Marc Berman for the New York Post (via SLAM):
J.R. Smith has 100 tattoos, including Yankees and Devils logos.
If the Knicks break their 40-year championship drought, Smith vowed to add orange-and-blue ink to his body for No. 101. Yes, a Knicks tattoo could be coming, even though he is a free agent this summer.
"If we win a championship, I'll definitely get it," Smith told The Post. "Other than that, I’m not sure yet."
Smith is a devout Yankees fan and, as a Freehold, N.J., native, the Devils are his favorite hockey team. But he has been more discriminate lately about adding more tattoos — he is running out of space. He hasn’t had a new addition since joining the Knicks 14 months ago.
Jason Terry grabbed headlines in 2011 when he revealed he had gotten a tattoo of the Larry O'Brien Trophy before the season to inspire the Dallas Mavericks to win a title, and that's exactly what they did despite the widespread belief that they were not contenders. On the surface, Smith's promise seems rather weak. He already has lots of sports-related tattoos, including an image of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls jersey. Adding the Knicks logo to his collection won't stand out, and he's not courting shame in any way. Athletes and even normal people get tattoos in honor of impressive accomplishments all the time.
Context matters, though, and in a sense Smith is making a grander claim. As Terry proved when he joined the Boston Celtics this summer, the average player has plenty of room on his body for championship-themed tattoos. Smith is different — he has very little room left and must think carefully about every new tattoo. If he gets the Knicks tattoo, he could be pushing out future accomplishments like the birth of a child, a business milestone, or the discovery of a distant planet. (Yes, I believe that J.R. Smith could become an intergalactic explorer. What of it?)
The Knicks are not typically considered to be one of the two or three teams with a good shot at winning the championship, so it's likely that he won't have to follow through on his promise. Nevertheless, I believe that Knicks fans should band together to honor his bravery and make their own tattoo pledge: if J.R. Smith is NBA Finals MVP, everyone should get a face tattoo in his likeness.
I see no downside. Chances are you won't have to do it. And, if you do, then it's one hell of a conversation starter.
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