His family is a huge part of Richardson's life, so many of his tattoos pay tribute to his loved ones. On his chest, he has an intricate tattoo that includes the names of his brothers, cousins, and three children, along with Asian characters that he says spell out "a personal message I keep to myself." Down the right side of his ribs, Richardson has a tattoo that reads "family" in one direction and "respect" in the other. His right bicep bears the word "rich," and his left bicep has the word "boys," a tribute to Richardson's sons, whom he calls "Rich Boys." On his left forearm are Chinese letters that represent the words "father," "strength," "talent," and "smooth." ("The words describe me," Richardson says.)
Richardson got his first tattoo when he was 15. It read "JRich" and included his high school basketball number. He has since had that tattoo covered with the image of the Grim Reaper holding a basketball. (The Grim Reaper is a popular tattoo among NBA players — Denver Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin, Chicago Bulls shooting guard Larry Hughes, former Denver Nuggets point guard Smush Parker, former Miami Heat guard Robert Hite, and Washington Wizards small forward Caron Butler have Grim Reaper tats, too).
Yet another NBA player with a Grim Reaper tat is the Suns' Matt Barnes. The 28-year-old swingman, formerly with the Golden State Warriors, has the Reaper on his left forearm, along with the Chinese symbol for eternal life. It's one of his many designs, and he says he has too many tattoos to count. "Seriously, I have no idea how many I have," he says. "I got my first tattoo when I was 17, so I'm 11 years into getting tattoos." (Counting tattoos is an inexact science, because some blend together and some can be seen only up-close and personal. We counted as many tats on Barnes as we could see, and our estimate is that he has 25).
Two of Barnes' more prominent and intriguing tattoos are the letters "F.T.H." on his chest, and the image of praying hands with the word "Believe" on his neck. For years, Barnes refused to tell anyone what "F.T.H." stood for, but he now reveals it's "Fuck the Haters." That tattoo and the praying hands are tied together.
"When no one had belief in me, I had belief in myself and belief in God," Barnes says.
Like many NBA players, Barnes wears tattoos that show love for his home state. In Barnes' case, that state is California (he grew up in Sacramento). On his left arm, he's got the words "Sac Town's Finest." On his right arm, he has a large, colorful pictorial tribute to California that includes the state Capitol building in Sacramento, the Golden Gate Bridge, a Dodgers logo, beaches, palm trees, and the words "California Love."
Also like many ballers, Barnes has self-descriptive and self-motivating words inked in his flesh, including "Only God can judge me" on his right arm, the words "faith" and "hope" on his wrists, "By Any Means Necessary" on his chest, "The strong survive" on his leg, and "Against all odds" on the back of his arm. The latter tattoo represents his rise in professional basketball. "There are only 350 people in the whole world who get to play for the NBA, and I'm one of them," he says.
Barnes has some tattoos he got just because he liked the designs (a spider web on his right elbow, an angel and a devil on his chest, a tribal sun, and black panther on his arm). But his next tattoo will be personal. "My mom passed last year, and I want to get something for my mom, but I'm still thinking about that," Barnes says.
Four-time All-Star Stoudemire, 26, grew up poor in Orlando (his father died when he was 12, and his mother's been in and out of prison on substance-abuse charges most his life). The 13 tattoos Stoudemire has tell stories of his trials and triumphs. His first tattoo was the acronym "STAT" ("standing tall and talented"), which he got when he was 18.
"Most of my tattoos are spiritual," he says. "They're all pretty much inspirational words and quotes." He didn't describe all of his tattoos in detail, but the meanings of most are obvious: "POVERTY" in large script letters covering his right bicep, "Knowing is Knowledge" on his left bicep, "Knowledge is Power" on his right bicep, and an entire paragraph on his left forearm ("I was raised in this society and this is how you expect me to be. I do what I want to do," with a replica of his signature at the bottom).
One of Stoudemire's most prominent tattoos is the image of a messianic figure carrying a broken man on his left bicep, with the words "Nobody Knows My Soul." Stoudemire's most visible (and controversial) tattoo is "Black Jesus" on his neck.