Nets rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has a tattoo of himself on his back

If, like me, you tend to focus more on the NBA game than it college counterpart, you might not have been especially familiar with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson before June, when the Portland Trail Blazers took him with the 23rd overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft before flipping him to the Brooklyn Nets in a draft-night deal. The 6-foot-7 small forward has been an early bright spot for Lionel Hollins' Nets, impressing with his larcenous work on the defensive end (fourth in the NBA in steal percentage, averaging an impressive 2.6 thefts per 36 minutes of floor time), his rebounding acumen (pulling down 21.1 percent of available defensive rebounds, a very strong mark for a wing) and his willingness to try to make plays for his teammates.

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There hasn't been very much that's fun about the 3-11 Nets, but watching and getting to know the 20-year-old Hollis-Jefferson has qualified ... especially the part where you learn that he has a giant tattoo of himself on his back.

As you can see on the date stamp on the tweet, this is not new ink; Hollis-Jefferson has had it for more than a year. It was, however, news to me, and so it might be news to you, and it is very, very good news, so let's hear more about it, shall we?

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First off: Hey, Rondae, why do you have a back tattoo? From Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game:

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“Myself has to watch my back,” Hollis-Jefferson said, referring to a tattoo he has of himself on his back.

Oh, OK, obviously. Duh. That makes total sense. Sorry we asked.

No, no, wait — this is still kind of crazy, right? Thaddeus Young, you're with us on this, aren't you? From Newsday's Rod Boone:

Incredulous after learning of the situation, Thaddeus Young couldn't wait to investigate the evidence with his own eyes. "Who gets a tattoo of themselves?" the Nets forward inquired Monday.


OK, cool. So, what's the story, Rondae? More from Boone:

"I was getting a story [tattooed] on my back about where I started, where I am coming from. Just the stepping-stones," Hollis-Jefferson said. "And this was the biggest picture of the portrait I was getting. So I was like, 'Let me get that out of the way.' And I tell people I will get it finished in the future, the whole thing. But now I tell them, 'Nah, that's just me watching my back.' "

Young isn't surprised at Hollis-Jefferson's explanation.

"That sounds like a Rondae quote," he said.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson briefly forgets who's watching his back, then remembers he is. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson briefly forgets who's watching his back, then remembers he is. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Hollis-Jefferson has continued to make progress on getting the full back covered, adding the word "CHESTER — the Pennsylvania city from which he hails — in bold capital letters across his shoulder blades prior to being drafted. And yet, as you might expect, it's the giant picture of himself that remains the main conversation piece.


This is not the first instance we've seen of an NBA player getting a "watching my back"-style back tattoo — Chris Smith, briefly of the New York Knicks, got the face of brother/teammate J.R. Smith inked on his back in 2013. It is, however, the first I can remember of a player getting himself tattooed on his back, Steve-O style. Truly a momentous development in NBA skin art.

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It was also believed to be a first for Kelly Presnell, the Arizona Daily Star photographer who snapped the shot that Hollis-Jefferson chose for the self-portrait, according to Kevin Zimmerman of AZ Desert Swarm:

"I was kind of baffled," Presnell said by phone on Tuesday. "(Arizona Daily Star director of photography) Rick Wiley called me on the phone, said 'Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is putting your photo on his back,' and I said, 'What?!" And he started laughing - we laughed about it for a while.

"I found it funny," Presnell added. "I'm a little confused about why he'd want to do something like that, but I'm not a big tattoo guy, I guess. I spent my life trying not to get punctured. Certainly one of the weirdest things someone has done with my pictures." [...]

The photo was taken during Arizona's 72-70 win at Michigan on Dec. 14. The Wildcats trailed 62-60 and were keeping the game close despite the Wolverines holding the homecourt momentum. Jefferson drove to the hoop for a layup and earned an and-one after being fouled by Caris LeVert, and that's when the Arizona freshman let out the emotional outburst with about 2:30 to play. [...]

"I thought I had better pictures of Rondae," Presnell said, "had a couple slam dunks that he might've thought was interesting. I don't know why he picked that particular one."


Well, for one thing, it sure seems to be a strong representation of the fire and intensity that make the rookie such a tenacious defender and have propelled him into the league. If you're going to pick a shot of yourself, it might as well be one that you feel shows exactly who you are, right?

Beyond that, though ... it's just a really rad photo. When I first learned about the tattoo, I thought Hollis-Jefferson might be insane. Now, I'm going through both my memory and my camera roll trying to figure out which photo of me I'd get tattooed on mine. (Just kidding. I already know.) Instead of questioning Hollis-Jefferson's choice, let's perhaps re-evaluate our own goals. After all, if we're not going to watch our own backs when it comes to fire photos and subsequent body-decorative choices, who will?

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

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