Hawks' Mike Scott explains his emoji tattoos: 'Sometimes they say what you can't say'

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Just a few of Mike Scott's many emoji tattoos. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)
Just a few of Mike Scott's many emoji tattoos. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

Mike Scott entered last season as a little-known reserve forward on the Atlanta Hawks, but began to earn some minutes and recognition midway through the campaign for his hand-in-glove fit as a defense-stretching, perimeter-shooting big man in head coach Mike Budenholzer's spread-'em-out-and-bomb-away offense.

Well, that was one reason he started to stand out. The tattoos were another, perhaps bigger reason.

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"Yes, those are emoji tattoos on Mike Scott," Chris Vivlamore wrote in a Jan. 19 Atlanta Journal-Constitution feature on the second-year contributor, confirming what some eagle-eyed fans had suspected while watching Hawks games and prompting nationally televised discussion of his unique ink preference.

Such discussions became more common come springtime, when Scott surprised national audiences with four double-digit scoring games during the eighth-seeded Hawks' first-round playoff series against the top-ranked Indiana Pacers, including a scintillating 17-point second quarter in Game 5 that briefly made the Virginia product the center of NBA attention.

Through it all, though, we were left to wonder — um, why? After months of persistent pursuit, Mashable's Sam Laird got the man himself to discuss his technologically specific body art — which Scott estimates make up "about 80 percent, 85 percent" of the more than 20 tattoos he's got — and the explanation is pretty perfect:

So why emojis? I'd never really seen emoji tattoos before yours.

The story behind it is I just use emojis a lot when I text. It's me; it's original. People are doing it now, but no one else had it before I started getting into it. I dunno — I guess I started the trend. It's a trend I see now but for sure no one had it when I started.

Sometimes they say what you can't say. They can express the words that you can't say about how you feel. You can do a whole conversation just using emojis and people will understand. I actually do that a lot.

In this way, then, Scott is a lot like one-of-the-greats comedian and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" actress Chelsea Peretti:

... which I think we can all agree is a pretty good thing.

So, OK, Scott likes emojis because they give voice to feelings he can't articulate, and he likes emoji tattoos because, as he told Vivlamore back in January, "It’s different. No one else is doing it." But even in an environment as tat-friendly as the NBA, where more than half the players have some sort of ink, such a distinctive signature must spark curiosity among opponents, right? More from Laird:

Do you get many comments on the court from other players?

Actually just the other day — Vince Carter. I have that lips emoji on my neck and he was asking me during the game if that was a specific lady's lips or whose lips or what. I said 'No, it's no one's lips. It's just the emoji lips.'

Vince is getting pretty old though. Do you think he really got it?

[Laughs] I mean, I don't think he understood they were emojis. Obviously I didn't have time to sit there and explain the whole emoji thing in the middle of the game. I just told him, 'Nah, nah, it's no one's lips, and kept going with the game.

The phenomenal thing about this is that Carter was probably like, "No, no, I totally get having lips tattooed on your neck; I mean, I've known Kenyon for a long time. But why do these lips look so weird? They're definitely not like the other lips I'm used to seeing tattooed on a player's neck."

Also, it's hard to come up with a richer descriptor of how Vince's place in the NBA has changed over the years than to think about the distance between the world-shaking young havoc-wreaker he introduced himself as in Toronto and the might-as-well-be-100 (but not 💯)-year-old man to whom Mike Scott won't waste time explaining emojis. It's like he's Captain America after getting thawed out, right down to the whole "pretty spry for an older fellow" thing we all break out whenever Vince dunks now.

No matter how many NBA old folks raise an eyebrow at Scott's predilection toward a very particular set of tattoos, he's intent on continuing to add to his collection — in fact, he just got a half-dozen new emoji tats, and showed them off via Instagram:

... and, as of this past winter, was planning "to get all of them." But even a man as committed to the emoji game as Scott still finds his path blocked by certain limits; you can't, after all, get tattoos of emojis that don't even exist.

"They definitely need a middle finger emoji," Scott told Laird. "I can't think of many others but that's definitely one I'd like to use for a couple people."

Well, keep 🙏, Mike. Maybe they'll make one soon, and you can 🎉. It might not happen in time for 🎃, or even ⛄, but maybe it'll be available by the time you and the Hawks win the 🏆. (That ought to give us some time.)

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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