(Be sure to read Royce’s column about the 2010 Oklahoma gubernatorial election at The Lost Ogle.)
My wife loves basketball. She enjoys the tempo of the game and the fact that all players have to play both offense and defense. She recognizes when a player is getting out of control and complains about poor shot selection as much as I do. On the other hand, she is not so good with distinguishing players apart.
It started when we were in college and she constantly cheered for Joe Adkins when Desmond Mason had the ball and vice versa. Me explaining that Joe was wearing #35 while Mason wore #34 fell on deaf ears. What we learned is that she could differentiate the players by their hair style.
This also led to her creating her opinions of said players based more on the way they styled their hair than on their skill on the floor. For instance, her favorite OSU player was Andre Williams because his afro made him stand out. The player she hated as much as I dislike Kobe Bryant was the point guard from Missouri (Wesley Stokes) because she thought his rastafarian hairdo meant he was a thug who clotheslined grandmothers as they crossed the street for fun.
Anyway, the point of this story is that basketball player hair has always been a topic of discussion around Matthews Manor. Because of that, I’ve noticed a recent trend going on among the roster of the Thunder.
Last May, Royce wrote a column detailing the declining number of tattoos possessed by members of the Oklahoma City NBA franchise. The tattoo, being the primary visible indicator of the poor image the league gained in the late-90’s and early part of this decade (the other being images of Ron Artest being pelted by ice at the Forum), was something few Thunder players displayed. Since the time of Royce’s article, the number has dwindled even more as Robert Swift (who was hardly on the team, anyway), took his painted man freak show to the Bakersfield Jam of the D-League. Now, only Thabo Sefolosha displays the only ink on the roster (shoulder tattoo).
In the same vein, the team appears to be going more conservative with their hair.
When it became apparent that the Sonics were going to be Oklahoma City’s franchise, a conclusion I arrived at immediately upon learning of Clay Bennett, et al, purchasing the team, I began to worry that my wife would have trouble embracing the team. At the time, one of the players expected to be a long-term part of the building process was Chris Wilcox, pictured at top.
He looked like an extra from The Wire and his hair was a huge part of that persona. I mean, it was braided to look like snakes were coming out of his skull, like Medusa. Then just before they arrived in OKC, they acquired Kyle Weaver and his similar look from the Bobcats. Thabo Sefolosha also sported cornrows when he was acquired at the trade deadline in February.
Coming to conservative Oklahoma seems to have changed a lot for the Thunder, though. Wilcox was jettisoned in what turned out to be little more than a favor to the New York Knicks. Now, Weaver has chosen to change his look to be more like this:
And Thabo went from this:
Of course, I would be remiss if I left out the remaining shaggy player. That title belongs to Etan Thomas. His long dreadlocks (pulled into a ponytail by an NBA monogrammed ponytail holder) along with his well groomed facial hair, I expected him to be the one player Mrs. Matthews would rebel against this season. I was wrong. He is her new favorite. But don’t think it’s because he’s blocking close to every tenth shot attempted while he’s in the game. Nope. It’s because the look Etan has going for him makes him look like a somebody who would be doing readings on Def Poetry. When I informed her that he actually is a poet with a blog on the Huffington Post, he was cemented as the player she enjoys the most.
Of course, the rest of the team never really had crazy hair (minus Swift who we already established is gone). Kevin Durant has always kept his hair closely cropped, much like Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. But really, the move toward the team starting to look like a CPA firm began when the player with the ultimate accountant hair style was brought into the fold: