This feature was originally published in Dime 72. Check your local newsstands now to see the piece in its entirety…
The Nets started a new age in Brooklyn this season, and they’re doing it without Anthony Morrow, the 6-5 sharpshooter who spent the last two seasons with New Jersey. He was traded to Atlanta this summer, and then to Dallas during this year’s trade deadline. New beginnings mean Morrow must rely on the foundation in his life â€“ faith, family, home â€“ and he won’t need to look far to find them, either. They’re all over his body.
*** *** ***
It was during Anthony Morrow’s rookie season in 2008. They were all just kicking it at Jermareo Davidson‘s house. Chilling. At the time, Morrow and Davidson were teammates with the Golden State Warriors, and Davidson had a special friend in town. Hakim Alston was a tattoo artist from Alabama, and Davidson first met him while playing for the Crimson Tide. Now going into his second year in the NBA, Davidson had flown Alston out to California with instructions: bring your A-game. I need some more ink.
Once there, Alston turned to Morrow, who didn’t get his first two tattoos until the previous summer, and asked if he wanted one too.
“I don’t know. I might want one. I’m not sure,” Morrow told him.
Before the day was over, Alston had put Morrow’s daughter’s name on his chest.
“I loved it so much, man, I got like five more tattoos,” Morrow says. “Ever since then, he’s done all my tattoos.”
Then Alston must be a busy guy. Nowadays, Morrow estimates he has over 40 tattoos, and by the time you read this feature, he might be closer to 50. They’re constantly evolving, the tale of his life sprawling out across his body in new chapters. Every one of them has a story. Every one is connected.
“It’s kind of addicting,” he says, “especially when you have a space between two tattoos that you want to fill in.”
When we caught up with Morrow, he was excited to finally have time to go house shopping in Atlanta. Last summer’s trade sent Joe Johnson to Brooklyn, while Morrow and others went to the Hawks. It was a whirlwind for him. Yes, hearing he was going home felt like two huge weights were lifted off his back. But besides moving back into the city where he played college ball, Morrow spent the summer with his family, shuttling back and forth between Charlotte, North Carolina, New Jersey and Atlanta. He vacationed in South Carolina. And he worked with Accelerate Basketball to improve his overall floor game. Everyone knows he can shoot â€“ he’s a career 43 percent three-point shooter who averaged 12 points a night with the Nets last year â€“ and the summer was about catching the rest of his game up.
Even though Morrow scored just 5.5 points a night in limited minutes in the ATL this season, and then has barely gotten off the pine so far in Dallas, his shooting could prove to make a big difference with the Mavericks.
But whatever does happen the rest of the season, Morrow knows he’ll still have his faith. He’ll still have his family, and he’ll still have home. They don’t waver or change, and they’re always with him. Just take a look at his arms, his chest, his stomach.
The tattoo phenomenon isn’t limited to NBA players, yet sometimes it feels that way. They play ball in shorts and jerseys. Their bodies are on display during their hours of work. Many end up using ink to decorate themselves. It’s a culture in itself.
“But like I always say, it’s not a measure of your mind or your heart,” Morrow adds. “It all depends on how far you go with it. Personally, I wouldn’t get a tattoo on my neck or I wouldn’t get my throat done or my face or anything like that. It’s really about what you want, what you really love or care about and you express it through body art.”
All of his tattoos serve a purpose, and they all play off each other like dominos. While Morrow has added newer designs to his body than these, and expects to continue getting more, the following tattoos are the foundations of his ink. They almost all revolve around what keeps him grounded: faith, family and home.
*** *** ***
A’niyah MonÃ©t Morrow
“I got my daughter on there, on my left peck. A’niyah MonÃ©t with the accent over the e, and then Morrow. And on my right, I got the Romans 8:31, which is basically ‘If the Lord is with us, then who can be against us?’ Then, I got the ‘Rise And Grind’ on my stomach. I got some new stuff. I got a Rosary on my sternum going down to the middle of my stomach, and in-between that, I got Corinthians 13: 1-5.”
“Morrow Family Loyalty. I got something added to that, too. I got a halo up there now too with some rays. That’s basically just my entire family, putting everybody right there. We are all staying loyal to each other.”
“That’s one of my favorite tattoos as well. It’s a cross. I don’t know the name of what you call it, but it’s like a cross going through the cross and it says ‘B FAM.’ Brothers from another mother. All of my closest friends, my cousin and my brother is on there. JC, DC and LC. That’s all the coolest four. We got more. But those are the main four, which is myself, my boy Lewis Clinch, who played at Georgia Tech with me, Dormeco Crawford, my brother, and Jonathan Clark, my cousin and my assistant. All four of us have that tattoo and have all of the initials in it. It says one love on it, basically. That’s our crew right there because when we were little to now, we all still cool, we all close and we all got that tattoo.”
“Lew got it first, and then me and JC got it, and then my brother got it last.”
“That’s my dad. I put my dad on there. That’s my partner right there. Pops. I put him on one side and my mom on the other side, and I got my grandmothers on each side. My mom and my grandmother are on the same side of the arm, and my other grandmother is on my dad’s side.”
“Yeah, kinda. They all kind of hurt but it doesn’t hurt as much. Once you get that one tattoo, you’re like ‘I don’t know how I made it through that.’ The rest of them aren’t as bad. You kind of get used to it. It’s easier to deal with the pain.”
Leake Street & West Boulevard
“That tells a story. I got some new stuff since you seen it. Basically, you start down in the middle of my arm, I got a new tattoo that is Interstate 77. Basically, if you’re coming from the airport, you take I-77, you can take it to Leake Street and West Boulevard, which is the block where I’m from. That’s the name of my neighborhood, which is Little Rock Apartments. If you keep going up, you get to the middle of the city which is 704. Where I’m from, 704. 28208 is my zip code (24:30), and 704 is obviously the area code with a crown. You keep going up, you see the city and the buildings. So it’s kind of like going from the airport coming through my neighborhood all the way up to uptown Charlotte.”
“I added more on, but my first tattoo on this arm was the 704, 28208. That was my very first tattoo on this arm. And then, I added the buildings on later. Then, I added on the street, the block where I’m from and then I added on the Interstate. I put some stars on the side.”
“Yeah, I got the spider web, man. The spider web was basically… I wanted to intertwine all my family, and I feel like the better way was to put a spider web to show we all in it. We’re all in it together, sticking together. Everybody is sticking together.”
“That’s my mother. That’s my momma. That was one of my first tattoos, it was that and the first part of my city on my left arm that were my first tattoos. I got my mom’s name because everybody knows she’s the best thing to ever happen to me, man, a blessing in my life. I talk to her almost every day. She’s made the most sacrifices for me out of anybody. I got her name and a halo over her head with angel’s wings coming off with doves and stuff on the side.”
“This was the first one I got.”
Dorshie Mae Morrow
“My grandmother. She just passed last March. I got both of my grandmothers’ names on me before they passed. Both of them have passed now, so they really mean more to me. I love those tattoos.”
“I like all of my tattoos, man. All of ’em mean something, you know what I’m saying? I just didn’t get any tattoo. It’s hard for me to pick out one favorite one. My left arm is pretty much all family, and my right arm is all city, hopes, motivations. I got both of my grandmothers on the same forearm on both sides. They’re like angels. Both of them are angels. I got two different angels.”
“I did that on purpose.”
“I got both of them before â€“ both of them have passed now â€“ but I got both of them before.”
“That was one of my first tattoos, the state of North Carolina with Charlotte on there. It says Queen City. I wanted to get a North Carolina tattoo on me early, and that was a good place for it. I still love it. It’s so clean. It kinda hurt, man. There’s a basketball and everything in it. When he was doing it, it felt like the pain was shocking up through my armpit. It was tough to take.”
“I didn’t use any numbing cream for my first 30, 35 tattoos. I started using it for my last seven to 10 tattoos because I actually found some. I didn’t even know they made it so it’s good. I should’ve been using it the whole time.”
“I got a Rosary on my sternum. That was tough. And the “Rise And Grind” on my stomach. Those were the two that hurt the most. The “Rise And Grind” on my stomach probably hurt the most out of any of my tattoos.”
” ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’ It’s basically like a wisdom quote in the Bible. Basically, for me I take it as not trying to do too much. Put everything I can’t control in God’s hands, and just control what I can control. I heard that quote so much growing up. I always liked it. We drew it out on a sheet of paper, and I was like ‘You gonna make it look that? He was like, ‘I can do it.’ It came out pretty good, man.”
“The Lord is my light and my salvation…”
“The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid? That’s just been a quote that I always read in Psalms.”
“It’s something my mom always read, my grandmother. It’s something that I always go to for motivation or anything that I’m going through whether it’s on or off the court. That was just a quote that anytime I feel like I was overwhelmed, I could always read that quote and it really put things back in perspective. The Lord is with me. There’s nothing nobody can do to take his blessings away.”
“I like to read. I like art in general. I like regular art, modern art, vintage art. If I see something I like, a sign or a quote… I’m a spiritual person so if I see something I like, I might get it with something like my family or a quote somebody said. I usually try to mix some art design in with that quote. That’s how my thought process goes into it. It’s not just anything that I see.”
“Sometimes you get a lot of ideas at once. But the problem is when you get so many ideas, there’s nowhere else to put the tattoos.”
Rise And Grind
“Yeah that was tough, bro. That was tough. That’s my thing (“Rise And Grind”), so I didn’t mind that it hurt. I really like that tattoo.”
Who has the best ink in the league?
Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.