What Do Kevin Durant’s Tattoos Mean?

Perhaps more than any other major sports league, the NBA has a tried and true love affair with tattoos. A lot of players use tattoos to pay homage to their favorite sports, music, and movie stars. Others take a more spiritual approach, such as Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard, who has an entire psalm tattooed on his left arm.

Yet some of the most elaborate and meaningful tattoos in the league today belong to Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant. As the years have gone on, Durant has inked his body more and more. Yet many fans fail to recognize the personal importance of his various tattoos. Here we take a closer look at three of Durant’s most notable tattoos.

Kevin Durant talking into the microphone during an interview
Kevin Durant laughing during an interview | Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Kevin Durant has a Tupac Shakur calf tattoo

Durant’s left calf features a tattoo of the late American rapper Tupac Shakur. Durant revealed the tattoo in July 2017, shortly after announcing that he was leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to play for the Golden State Warriors. Since then, Durant has frequently been asked about the meaning of the tattoo.

The simplest explanation is that Durant is a longstanding Tupac fan. Yet the meaning goes far deeper than that for Durant. In one interview, Durant revealed that the tattoo signifies his own growing awareness of how “how rough it is for an average black man” to live in the United States. Durant went on:

“Tupac was known for being woke, being politically incorrect, having a voice, and standing up for himself, standing up for what he believes is right. He expressed that in his music, he expressed that in interviews, he expressed that through his movies, through his artistic work. It’s way bigger than him being an artist or making a hot-ass song or having a No. 1 record.”

In other words, Durant wanted to pay homage to a man who successfully voiced so many of the issues affecting African American men today.

A Rick James thigh tattoo

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Tupac isn’t the only legendary musical figure tattooed on Kevin Durant’s left leg. On his left thigh, Durant also sports a tattoo of legendary funk musician Rick James. Durant got the James tattoo at the same time as the Tupac tattoo. He envisioned the two pieces as being twin statements about the struggles and accomplishments of black men in American culture.

In the same interview with The Mercury News, Durant discussed the meaning James holds for him, both culturally and personally:

“Rick James personified freedom. He personified just being you, loving and caring for what you like, what you believe in. On top of that, every black family played the jams on the weekends when you had to clean up … anytime when it’s weekend, moms, grandma, they played the jams, so Rick James was in the rotation. Every time I hear a Rick James song it brings me back to my childhood.”

Bible tattoo on the back

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Damian Lillard isn’t the only NBA player who has chosen to express his religious faith by means of a tattoo. In 2013, Durant inked a massive biblical tattoo on his back.

The tattoo includes several different elements. At the top is an angel with outspread wings. Below on the left is a large portrait depicting the face of Jesus Christ. To the right is a bible verse taken from the Book of James.

Unfortunately for Durant, the first version of the bible verse contained a misspelling, with the word “mature” spelled “mautre.” Durant quickly had the error corrected, and he posted a follow-up image on his Instagram account within days.