When Kevin Durant sat down to speak with reporters before the U.S. men’s basketball team’s Thursday practice, he did so with his left leg wrapped. No need to worry, U.S. hoops fans — the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player, four-time NBA scoring champion, 2010 FIBA World Championship MVP and 2012 Olympic gold medalist didn’t tweak anything ramping up to competition at next month’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. No, this wrap was covering up some new, and very striking, artwork:
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Yep: that’s the face of the late, great hip-hop artist, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur — hat cocked back, chin on his hand, rings gleaming — recreated in pretty lifelike fashion on Durant’s lower left leg.
Not everybody enjoyed the new Golden State Warriors star’s artistic homage to the rap icon:
Tupac when he saw Kevin Durant's new tattoo pic.twitter.com/kcZzX9AUFr
— Rich Homie Flan (@v_bonilla) July 21, 2016
How you look at somebody when they blow a 3-1 lead in the playoffs pic.twitter.com/GD1Z4kSoOC
— 31 Average (@YungCostanza) July 21, 2016
… but while he’s long been on record as preferring the Notorious B.I.G. to Pac on the whole, Durant — whose smooth game and sweet shooting have earned him a host of hip-hop shoutouts over the years — told Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group that the ink-on-skin tribute comes from a place of sincere appreciation:
Durant said before Thursday’s practice that Notorious B.I.G is Durant’s favorite rapper. But the Warriors’ new star is enamored with the depth in some of 2Pac’s lyrics.
“To be so young and say the things he said,” Durant explained. “Who is thinking like that at the age?”
There’s also a bit of a bicoastal salute at work here. Shakur grew up in Baltimore, not far from Durant’s hometown of Seat Pleasant, Md., and at age 17 moved to Marin, Calif., about an hour north of Oracle Arena. Whether the decision to go all-in on the Pac tat was inspired by Durant’s newfound California love — hey, maybe that Wu-Tang Clan symbol is really a West Coast-flagging W — is something only KD knows, but as Thompson notes, there also appears to be at least a bit of a tie between some of Tupac’s more famously confrontational tracks and the position in which Durant now finds himself as an NBA “villain”:
Is he saying Only God Can Judge Me or that it’s Me Against the World? Is he acknowledging All Eyez On Me or embracing all the Changes in his life? Is this his way of saying he and Stephen Curry are 2 of Amerika’s Most Wanted or a message for his haters to Picture Me Rollin’? […]
I wouldn’t be surprised though if Durant is responding to all the criticism over his decision to leave Oklahoma City for the Warriors. He’s become a lightning rod, under attack from current and former players, who question his legacy. Some 2Pac songs could definitely fit his mindset.
Durant doesn’t seem wholly comfortable embracing that role — remember, he said he was “hurt for a few days because [he knew] that [he] hurt so many people in Oklahoma City by changing teams” — but bit by bit, he’s working on it, according to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne:
“I just try to be the man in the arena,” Durant said. “It’s easy for the critics on the outside to tell you what to do or what decisions to make, but they weren’t just out here with me, putting in work.
“I can’t really worry about the outside noise. I have to go to work. The work don’t stop. The love of the game doesn’t fade. Everything stays the same no matter where I play.”
And now, thanks to what had to be at least a few hours in a tattoo artist’s chair, wherever his journey takes him, Durant knows he’ll never walk alone.
Time was, Durant opted only for “business tattoos,” the kind of torso and back ink covered up by the jerseys he wears on the court and the shirts he wears off it. Then again, considering KD’s most recent line of footwear …
I choose to believe KD got that tattoo so he can have something to reveal once he pulls off these bad boys. pic.twitter.com/jLlBNwkS4R
… maybe this huge leg piece is business-casual, too.
And now, we await the response.
Right now, in a quiet beachfront town in Cuba, Tupac is getting a huge Kevin Durant tattoo.
— RUSS BENGT$ON (@russbengtson) July 21, 2016
Maybe that photo will hit the Internet after KD and the boys bring home gold next month.
More USA Basketball coverage:
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