It came as something of a surprise to see New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert sit down for an interview with KnicksNow.com's Jonah Ballow two weeks ago without the high-top fade/flattop that had become his trademark over the past year. Shumpert began growing it out while sidelined following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and his coif soon became arguably more recognizable than his game; maybe it was just the sort of thing you do to occupy your mind while going through the monotony of rehabilitating a severe injury (hey there, Andrew) but it also spoke to a certain level of individuality and personality that's made the Georgia Tech product something of a cause celebre among Knicks fans during his brief NBA career. (Also, apparently, it had something to do with liking Johnny Bravo a lot.)
When Shump unveiled his new style, our Eric Freeman wondered whether the 23-year-old had "tired of the [previous] look and wanted to experiment, or maybe [made] a rash decision." As it turns out, neither sparked the shave; instead, as Shumpert reveals in a YouTube video posted Wednesday, he did it to punish himself.
We'll let him explain, in fairly dramatic fashion:
My hair right now is my thing. It’s part of my brand; everyone knows me for it. They just put [it] on '[NBA] 2K14' — they did a whole layout so I could have my high-top. The other day we played Boston — for the first time since I could remember playing basketball, I let so much stuff in [from] the outside world.
Things that are going on in my life affected me so much [that] I wasn’t playing that game to win; I was trying to beat my problems. I wasn’t even talking trash to the other team. I wasn’t talking to my team. I wasn’t getting people hyped. I really just gave in. And I think the perfect way to punish myself is to take my hair — just to end that whole separation of trying to be cool or trying to separate myself so that I look different.
I need to remind myself that, no matter how big anything gets in this world, my one goal is to get my ring. To play hard, and to play to win, and to play amongst my teammates, play within my team, within my coaches, within my organization, within the city I play in. Never, ever, ever put myself outside the circle ever again. My new beginning is just to be me.
Shumpert appears to be talking about the Knicks' preseason matchup with the Boston Celtics on Oct. 12, which saw Boston blow the Knicks' doors off by 30 points. He went 2 for 9 from the field in that game, committed four fouls in 27 minutes, and failed to make a defensive impact as Celtics guards Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee combined for 33 points on 14 for 21 shooting. Hours after the game, Shumpert shared a somewhat cryptic message with his Twitter followers:
Tomorrow will be the best day I've had in a while. Sometimes you need that mirror to show you you gave in. Now #murk.
— Iman Shumpert (@I_Am_Iman) October 13, 2013
And two days later, he sat down to chat with Ballow a few inches shorter.
On one hand, this is a preeeeeeeetty dramatic/self-serious way to respond to a preseason loss and discuss a haircut. On the other, if Shumpert's being honest about his motivations for the change, it's sure to go a long way with Knicks fans who'd much rather hear about a player making a conscious decision to eschew coolness for commitment to team play than about prospective free agency or the latest Smith family dramatics.
To be fair, it's not like Knicks fans needed another reason to love Shumpert, but this couldn't hurt. Heck, maybe it'll even help the third-year guard finally curry favor with coach Mike Woodson. As long as the haircut doesn't strip away the chances of Shumpert having as big an impact for the Knicks as high-top stalwart Norris Cole had in the Miami Heat's season-opening win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, it remains a possibility.
Hat-tip to FTW.
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