Welcome to the 21st century NBA, where franchise players have tattoos, earrings and their personal problems are exposed via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Welcome to the 21st century NBA, where franchise players have arisen to stardom via ghettos, bad neighborhoods and below the poverty line. Welcome to the 21st century NBA, where fans don't care how a player looks or what his rap sheet is, if he can put the rock through the rim then he's a certified savior of a city.
If we're going to be tackling John Wall's tattoos and telling team management to pause on a possible extension then maybe we're still living in the past where players were still wearing high top fades (when it first became cool) and/or Chuck Taylors.
Washington Post writer Jason Reid's rant that Wall's latest chest ink should cause pause for a new contract is about as outdated as the typewriter, which may in fact be what he used to bat out his story. After Allen Iverson broke NBA ground in the mid-90s, the stereotypes and the prejudging of professional athletes went out the window. Sure, Iverson's bad boy behavior and agonizing antics did nothing to dispel his looks, but the floodgates of following athletes defined by their talent and not their "tats" became the norm. But that was back in the late 90s and early 2000s so the fact that we're still talking about these issues in 2013 is quite silly.
Racism still exists and stereotypes are still handed out easily but the notorious "tattoo" doesn't scream thug or gangster like it used to. When you scan the NBA landscape nearly every franchise star has body ink written somewhere on him. From LeBron James to Kobe Bryant. From the low key Kevin Durant to the quiet and humble Tim Duncan, tattoos aren't signs of danger, they're signs of a signature star.
But considering Wall walks the streets of Washington, D.C., where tattoos are the staple of the youth in the area, then resigning him as the face of the franchise makes all the sense in the world. And considering that Wall's body art isn't even visible unless he's standing next to you shirtless, then questioning whether or not Washington should re-sign him makes absolutely no sense at all. If the Wizards brain trust even gave the slightest concern about a torso tattoo then clearly their thinking is about as prehistoric as segregation and the term "colored." Your best player has a tattoo beneath his jersey? So what?! Even if Wall was rocking a body covered in black ink, have you seen LeBron James lately? He's the guy that just ripped off two NBA Finals MVP awards while leading his team to back-to-back championships.
Maybe Reid's rendition was merely meant to get people talking. If so, then mission accomplished. Because there's no way a sportswriter in the 21st century could still be concerning himself with something as commonplace as tattoos amongst professional athletes. When Wall walks through the doors of the Verizon Center with teardrops tatted beneath his eye or Thug Life sprawled across his stomach then there may be actual reason to question a big bonus. But until that day happens, fans and the franchise will continue to judge him by his play on the court and not by the opinion of a story that's probably 30 years too late.