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Being hurt is tough. All players want is to be out there on the field, performing to the best of their abilities and the top of their athletic intelligence, being handsomely compensated while receiving heaps of unwavering praise — y'know, the American dream. When you're laid up with injuries, not only can you not bask in the glow of your own greatness, but the tedious process of healing and rehabilitating can grow wearisome (just ask Dirk Nowitzki), becoming so monotonous as to drive you a bit crazy. You need something to break up the routine and liven things up a bit.
At least, that's my working theory for why Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum, who's been shelved since September after receiving multiple injections in his right knee and might not suit up for Philly until 2013, continues his personal journey of experimentation on the Sixers' sideline. The 7-footer unveiled the latest installment in his ongoing project during Wednesday night's game between the Sixers and Detroit Pistons:
Another look, this time from the front:
Now, it is not necessarily news that Bynum has decided to let his freak flag fly since heading to Philly, follicularly and otherwise — our pal Trey Kerby has been dutifully documenting the big man's early season sartorial choices at The Basketball Jones in a regular column titled, "Is Andrew Bynum in Costume or Not?" But after watching the evolution of Bynum's hair from the comparatively close-cropped look he kept this spring with the Los Angeles Lakers through the young Kobe-style mini-'fro he had when traded to the 76ers and Jake Shuttlesworth-echoing bigger 'fro he had at media day to the gray-tinged, center-cannot-hold blowout of early November, Wednesday night's combed-down, borderline-helmet-headed approach felt especially jarring.
You're tempted to call it an homage to the Motown era, since the Sixers were playing the Pistons and all, but it's not like he pompadour-ed it up; it's just sort of relaxed, combed down in the back and forward in the front, evoking more a meeting at which the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and Moe Howard listen to Earth, Wind & Fire than the Motor City's musical heyday. (I bet that would be a pretty weird meeting, and I wonder what they'd talk about. How the Sixers are doing, probably.)
As SB Nation's Bomani Jones pointed out Wednesday, this is less a man saying he doesn't care about his appearance than a man expending a lot of time and effort to show that he cares specifically about appearing a certain way, irrespective of (or, perhaps more likely, because of) the fact that it evokes such a curious response. I have no idea what the hell to make of what Bynum's doing, really, and maybe that's the way he likes it. He's always enjoyed tweaking us squares a bit, remember? And given the way the Internet has responded to it thus far, I think you can fairly consider us tweaked.
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If nothing else, Bynum's penchant for barbershop reverie has given Philly fans something offbeat to discuss when they don't feel like talking about the Sixers. On a night like Wednesday — when the 76ers shot 29.8 percent from the floor and dropped an 18-point decision to the previously winless Pistons, in a game that frankly wasn't even that close for much of the proceedings — that's just about the greatest gift a man can give. (Shy of actually playing, of course.) It remains to be seen whether Bynum will stick with the conked-and-combed look, return to the Clarence Williams III in "Tales from the Hood"/Mayor Goldie Wilson/Dr. Cornel West style he's sported of late or go in another direction entirely, but one thing seems clear — Andrew Bynum's feeling himself these days.
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