A Look At Hair Loss in the Great Game of Basketball
What would happen ... what could happen ... if we put together an all-star team hoopsters who suffer from hair loss?
Here’s a team to get any basketball fan’s pulse racing:
Gary Payton as Point Guard. Michael Jordan as Shooting Guard. Glen Rice as Small Forward. Kevin Garnett as Power Forward. Shaquille O’Neal as Center.
Now, sports fans being sports fans, there’s bound to be many guys who would quibble and want to do some substituting on that list, but just about anyone has to admit that the five players named above are pretty darn impressive.
And, of course, all have sported the bald look on the court.
Michael Jordan is legendary for making the shaved head not just acceptable but popular. Yes, there had been before him basketball players who shaved it clean, but Jordan is the one who took it to the top. After him, it was cool to shave your head, especially if you were a hoopster.
And why not? After all, “Air Jordan” is arguably the greatest and/or most popular National Basketball Association (NBA) player of all time. Look at the man’s record: six NBA Championships, six Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, five NBA MVPs and three All-Star game MVPs. Nobody moved like him, played like him. It was next to impossible not to want to be like him, and so his giving a shaved head the stamp of approval carried a lot of weight.
Hoopsters with hair loss are heavyweights
And the others on that list are hardly featherweights.
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the biggest guys ever to play the game, and his sheer physical presence has made him an incredible player. Yes, he makes some surprising mistakes; for a player with his considerable talent, his skills sometimes vary widely. But when “Shaq” is on, he is on. His three NBA Finals MVPs are nothing to sneeze at, nor is his being in 14 NBA All-Star games.
Kevin Garnett (“The Cobra”) is another MVP award winner, as well as an NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and he has been in 13 All-Star games. He led his league in defensive rebounds in five consecutive seasons and is the only player in NBA history to reach at least 20,000 points, 11,000 rebounds, 4,000 assists, 1,200 steals and 1,500 blocks in his career.
Glen Rice (“G-Money”) won an All-Star MVP in 1997 and played in three All-Star games (averaging 16.3 points per game). He was the NBA leader in three-point field goals in 1997 and is ranked eighth all time in three pointers made.
Gary “The Glove” Payton is the only point guard ever to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He played in nine All-Star games and is the only player in NBA history to accumulate 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 8,000 assists and 2,000 steals in a career.
And they’re not the only bald (whether shaved or natural) NBA players of note. Kobe Bryant. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Tim Hardaway. Karl Malone. Vince Carter. Xavier McDaniel. Charles Barkley. Ray Allen.
The court is filled with impressive players whose domes gleam under the lights.
Is the shaved look only due to Jordan?
Jordan may have made it cool, but is there an actual benefit that hoop players get from shaving the head?
“I was an all-state high school basketball player [Colorado] and played a bit of college basketball [University of Northern Colorado],” says Shawn Hermanson. “Back in the day, I used to shave my head on a weekly basis. (I am now 36 years old and don't play as much ball, so I have a full head of hair.) I can tell you from experience that I used to shave my head because it made my game easier. With a full head of hair, it seemed I would sweat more and my hair was just plain nasty after a game. Having a shaved head also cooled down my internal temperature.
“When I first shaved my head, it felt a bit weird and took a while to get used to, but soon I began to love it. I was always a heavy sweater and got really hot when I played. In high school I became the barber for our team, and it became a pregame ritual to trim and shave our heads. It was a real team-bonding activity that brought us closer.”
Derrick Hayes is an encouragement speaker who is a big basketball fan. He thinks that convenience also is a factor. “When you shave it bald, it takes less time to take care of, versus spending an hour in a barber chair.” He notes that there are a lot of football and baseball players who are also hairless but who escape notice because they wear helmets or caps.
Whatever the reason, it’s a thrill to turn on the TV or go to the stadium and see so many hair-free pates. The sheer power and talent of the players are exciting, but the real boost comes from seeing how comfortable and at ease these men are and how proudly they display their hairlessness.
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