Twin brothers add Raptors draft pick’s signature to hoops tattoo collection

Toronto Raptors draftee Jonas Valanciunas has been killing it in Europe, leading Lithuania's under-19 national team to a FIBA world championship and turning in strong play for his Euroleague side en route to winning recognition as FIBA's European Young Men's Player of the Year for 2011. His continued development, which will be covered in a forthcoming NBA TV Canada special, has Raps fans salivating at the prospect of the young 7-footer providing a game-changing presence on both ends of the floor for coach Dwane Casey.

Since his selection with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Valanciunas has represented hope for the Toronto faithful; when he arrives in the league next summer, there'll likely be quite a few people clamoring for his autograph. So it was pretty smart of two twin brothers from Valanciunas' native Lithuania to beat the rush and just get his signature tattooed on their bodies now. This way, no crowds. It's like ordering presents online instead of going to the mall.

Simas from the European basketball blog EuroStep has the details:

A pair of half-Latvian, half-Lithuanian 40-year-old hoops crazy twins, who have been living in Latvia for their whole lives, chose a rather interesting way to show pride in their Lithuanian roots.

Brothers Nauris and Normunds asked Jonas Valanciunas, the 19-year-old rising star from Lithuania, to put his signature on their shoulders and later on went on to make a tattoo out of it and the player kindly agreed.

The practice of fans getting tattoos of their favorite players or inspired by memorable moments has become increasingly popular of late. In NBA circles, we've seen tattoos celebrating "The Dunk," Dirk Nowitzki's trademark fadeaway jumper, and even former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan's lifelong love of tractors. (And just last week, obviously, a pledge of eternal skin love for Jeremy Lin's No. 17.) If these brothers were just really big fans of Valanciunas, getting his signature tattooed on their bodies would still be hilarious and amazing (to me, at least), but in and of itself, the act wouldn't be unique.

What makes the twins' new ink so cool, as Simas notes, is that Valanciunas' Jonas Hancock is just the latest in a long line of tats celebrating the proud history of Lithuanian basketball:

From portraits of Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Jasikevicius to the ones of grandfathers of Lithuanian basketball Pranas Lubinas and Feliksas Kriauciunas — the pair are literally a walking gallery of the nation's rich hoops traditions.

A few things about this:

1. Dangit. I thought I was the only one with a Sarunas Jasikevicius portrait tattooed on my body. If it's on their butts, too, I am going to be so steamed.

2. I hope the brothers actually got Sabas inked and not one of his doppelgangers. You can never be too careful out there.

3. How cool is it that these two dudes have decided to turn themselves into living Lithuanian basketball museums? There's something poetic not only about the level of commitment to sport and homeland, but also their chosen method of expression.

They've written the story of Lithuanian basketball — the triumphs and heroics, sure, but also the sadnesses that go along with them, like the awful Achilles injury that derailed Sabonis' career and the decades-long absence from Eurobasket competition before national independence — on their flesh. It, all of it, is a part of them. And now, with Valanciunas poised to come over to the NBA next season to anchor the Raptors' rebuilding effort and write a new chapter in Lithuanian basketball history, he's part of them, too. That's pretty great.

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