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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ink isn’t just for contracts anymore

Chris Erskine Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – The circus doesn’t come around much anymore, but we’ll always have the NBA, the tattooed ladies of Denver currently catching our eye in center ring. Not to be all judgmental, because that’s beneath us, but what’s with those Andy Warhol lips behind Kenyon Martin’s right ear? Either that’s a hall-of-fame hickey or the guy’s really gone off the deep end.

Haven’t we all.

Middle America must be beside itself with this series. Certainly, it can’t root for those pinko, attention-deficit Californians, who don’t seem always to try their very hardest. The alternative is this circus act from Denver, players who get as much ink for their ink as for their athleticism.

By gawd, Martha, one of these young fellas has a big pair of … of red lips behind his ear. Get me Rush Limbaugh on the phone.

Indeed, these Denver tattoos have become the spectacle within the spectacle in this crazy series. Are there no mirrors in Denver? Are there no mothers? With all this body art, have the Nuggets crossed the line? Is there even a line anymore?

Tribal insignias, family crests, spider webs and grocery lists, these Nuggets have it all. Sure, every NBA team is tatted up these days – a reported 70 percent of players have tattoos. But the Nuggets have raised the body art bar.

I understand Mr. Martin’s famous neck lips are actually a tribute to his girlfriend, a rapper from Miami by the name of Trina (these things are never simple).

As one blogger put it: “It looks stupid now, it will look stupider when they break up.”

One of Martin’s teammates, Carmelo Anthony, has what looks to be a Warner Bros. symbol peeking out of his jersey, though it’s really a tribute to his old stamping grounds of West Baltimore.

Their big white guy has a Woody Woodpecker haircut and arms and legs like a Rand McNally road map. Freaky. Another player appears to have a small archipelago along his neck … no wait, that’s Trevor Ariza.

I guess a young man making millions to play basketball has to rebel against something. And rebellion must be so much easier when everyone else is doing it.

Remember the great American Dennis Rodman? Now there was a real rebel, a man made entirely of sharp elbows and smut.

“To hang out in a gay bar or put on a sequined halter top makes me feel like a total person,” Rodman once said.

Now, I’m no hothouse flower when it comes to pop culture mayhem. Back in the ’70s, I practically invented streaking, or at least encouraged it at every turn. Back then, good old-fashioned human skin was all you needed to make a statement. In the ’70s, nudity was enough.

Point is, boys and girls, there is nothing wrong with plain, unadorned human skin. In the proper light, it can be almost beautiful.

Point is, part 2: If you’re counting on NBA players to be your role models, you’re fishing in the wacky pond.

“Fifty percent of life in the NBA is sex,” Rodman reportedly once said. “The other 50 percent is money.”

Which, of course, leaves so little time for jump shots.

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