After missing the first 36 games of the 2012-13 season following surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left knee, Iman Shumpert made his season debut for the New York Knicks during last Thursday's 102-87 win over the Detroit Pistons in London. Knicks fans are excited to have the athletic second-year guard back in the lineup to bolster the team's perimeter defense, but the young wing player is probably more recognizable around the league for his hair than his play.
While rehabbing his injured knee, he decided to let his hair grow out and fashion it into one of the league's two fiercest high-top fades (the other belongs to fellow sophomore guard Norris Cole of the Miami Heat). What kind of player Shumpert develops into remains to be seen, but under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, the 22-year-old Chicagoan seems intent on not only maintaining his individuality, but celebrating it, which is cool; in a league like the NBA, personality can go a long way.
Shumpert talked about his high-top with Nate Taylor of The New York Times, sharing not only the genesis of the style ("When I was growing up, all my cousins had high-top fades. I thought it would be cool to see how long I could grow a high-top") but also a pretty weird yet somehow perfect piece of Shump-related trivia:
Shumpert said he planned to keep his high-top fade. When Shumpert’s mixtape album, Th3 #Post90s, was released in December, his high-top fade was the focal point of the album cover. He loves the haircut so much he has a tattoo on his left forearm of Johnny Bravo, a cartoon character with pompadour-style hair.
For those of you who didn't watch a ton of Cartoon Network in the late '90s and early '00s, "Johnny Bravo" was an animated series that starred a musclebound blonde dude who sounded like an Elvis impersonator and gets beat up by women a lot. And, yes, he had a huge pompadour.
While I'm not entirely sure that Shumpert got the tattoo specifically in relation to how much he loved the character's hair and how much he loves his own, I have no doubt at all that he got it out of a deep, honest, abiding love for the program. After all, he references it in his bio on his personal website:
“I’m a 90s baby… I miss high shorts with long compressions… Arm bands on the off arm… Johnny Bravo and Dragon Ball Z… high top fades… Albums that tell stories… Genuine hate in sports… Guess I’m just a throwback…#post90s”
... and has pined for the days of watching the show on Twitter:
I miss catching Johnny Bravo on the late night...how am I suppose to sleep now
— Iman Shumpert (@I_Am_Iman) March 13, 2012
So, y'know, it all checks out.
Whether the hair was inspired by a cartoon character he's got tattooed on his arm or not, Shumpert's high-top doesn't necessarily seem to be all that popular with his teammates, especially fellow guard J.R. Smith, according to Taylor:
Most of Shumpert’s teammates have told him he should leave the high-top fade in the past.
“It’s awful,” J. R. Smith said. “It was cool for a while, but he’s taking it too far now. He got to cut it.”
Shumpert, who at 22 is the Knicks’ youngest player, said Carmelo Anthony and Kurt Thomas joked daily about his hair. “They just want high tops,” he said. “They want it, but they’re too old.”
So, to recap: Shumpert's teammates think a high-top fade is too far and ridiculous, but have zero problems with him tattooing a cartoon Elvis impersonator on his forearm. Seems weird, but I guess it kind of makes sense considering Carmelo Anthony has the Warner Brothers logo tattooed on his shoulder (to shout out West Baltimore, but still) and J.R. Smith has, well, everything tattooed on him. As long as this doesn't result in Jason Kidd winding up with the Power Puff Girls across his back, I guess it's OK.
One last question, Iman — what do you like best about your haircut?
“It’s cool because you have hair, but you have a fade at the same time,” Shumpert said.
OK, cool. Thanks.