Throughout the years, NBA players have been on the forefront of culture-defining trends. We all try to emulate their style on and off the court, and we run to our trusted barber to keep that style on point. And we know if some of our faves like James Harden took a seat in Ice Cube’s chair in Barbershop: The Next Cut – which hits theaters April 15, he’d be an MVP. On the court: we try to copy the way the superstars play the game, the way they wear their uniforms; we even mimic the gestures they make while celebrating. Off the court is no different. We buy the shoes they wear, the brands they advertise, we all basically try to look like them – even down to the all-important hairstyle and haircut. A player’s hairstyle/cut can almost tell you more about him than his actual outfit. Hairstyles of NBA players have always been a hot topic for people who follow the players and for others around the world.
Here are five times NBA stars’ haircuts have changed the game:
Michael Jordan – The bald head look
Starting from the mid ’80s all the way through the present, Michael Jordan has always been looked at as someone fans around the world try to copy – whether it be his tongue wagging out when playing, the baggy shorts, or the ultra-popular (even today) Air Jordan basketball shoes that are still hard to find at stores or online. MJ can also be given credit for something else: making the bald head look cool. Up until Jordan began rocking the baldy, NBA players’ famous signature hairstyles included everything from huge afros (Dr. J) to juicy Jheri Curls (A.C. Green). After MJ’s rise to NBA dominance, other players and men around the world noticed the positive attention Jordan was getting and started shaving their hair completely off and showing their bald heads with confidence.
Anthony Mason – Designs in the cut
In the mid-’90s, while Patrick Ewing was the face and the franchise player for the New York Knicks, Anthony Mason was the heart and soul of the team. Mase embodied everything New York City was at the time. He played with raw, gritty, in your face emotion and never backed down. Mason also was known around the basketball world for having very elaborate designs and pictures cut into his low top fade. Sometimes the design would be a picture or patterns, other times it would include his name or different messages. It definitely added to his persona. Kids all over NYC and everywhere started showing up at their barbers requesting the same thing after watching those tough Knicks teams.
Allen Iverson/Carmelo Anthony – Cornrows
These two brothas are responsible for bringing the cornrow hairstyle to the basketball watching/playing masses. While AI starred at Georgetown University with the short brush cut, he let his hair grow while in the NBA and eventually had it cornrowed when it grew high enough. Iverson would occasionally switch up the style and look of the cornrows so you never knew what he was going to look like from game to game. His cornrows were super flashy and different from anyone else in the NBA at the time, but he definitely had the game to back it up. Allen Iverson won the NBA MVP award for the 2000-2001 season with the Philadelphia 76’ers. Carmelo Anthony (perhaps influenced by Iverson) busted onto the scene with the Syracuse Orangemen with his cornrows. He was a very talented freshman that led his team to the 2003 NCAA Championship and was drafted into the NBA later in 2003. With the star power of these two NBA players proudly wearing the ‘do, cornrows exploded not only in the basketball world, but also crossed over into the mainstream media. Athletes, hip-hop stars, and even Justin Timberlake from the boy band N’Sync were spotted rocking the cornrows. This hairstyle possibly had the biggest impact of any other style worn by NBA stars.
LeBron James – Lines in side of head
LeBron James is no stranger to public discussion about hair and haircuts. Many basketball watchers have made a joke or two (including his former Miami Heat teammates and good friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) when it comes to LeBron’s headbands and hairlines. While it’s no secret that LeBron is definitely losing his hair, he has recently owned it and stopped wearing headbands, now favoring the low top fade with the two lines on the side like guys did back in the day. The cut gained attention last summer during the NBA Finals and has picked up steam ever since then. You now can take a look at basketball players of all ages and sizes getting a fresh fade with the two lines on the side to try and look like LeBron. Interestingly enough, LeBron’s hair isn’t the most talked about on his team, that award goes to…..
James Harden – Beard/Mohawk
James Harden is now one of the best players in the NBA. He was the NBA MVP runner up in 2015 and had his team in the Western Conference Finals. Harden has one of the best driving games in the NBA and can single-handedly beat teams. However, that sometimes gets lost once people talk about his mohawk haircut and super thick beard. Harden began wearing the mohawk a few years back while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder and still rocks the style today. If you take a look around the basketball world now however, you see everyone from the Duke Blue Devils, current Oklahoma All American Buddy Hield, to even his own teammate Dwight Howard wearing the mohawk ‘do. The haircut is definitely having its moment, and James Harden is a big reason for that.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty