Carmelo Anthony is One Big Piece of Interpretive Art

They’re not tattoos, they’re skin illustrations! Don’t you EVER call them tattoos! – Rod Steiger, The Illustrated Man

For any of you who watch the New York Knicks with the same level of voracity as I do—or if you’re planning on watching their opening round series against the Celtics— you are bound to be fascinated by what Carmelo Anthony has peeking out from behind his #7 jersey.  From lurid flames, to rubbery basketballs, to macabre spiderwebs, his skin illustrations seem to be everywhere.  I have done some digging, and, as far as I can tell, what follows is the world’s first critical analysis of the mercurial Knicks’ swingman’s body art.  Just don’t call them tattoos.

“I Shall Fear No Man” (Back)

The largest of Melo’s illustrations– one he shares with former teammate Kenyon Martin– this phrase is embedded on a large gothic cross, which covers the majority of his back.  The origin of this mantra can be traced to the late Tupac Shakur’s “So Many Tears”, an ode to his fallen colleagues.  Some say that Shakur himself was inspired by a biblical verse from Hebrews, Chapter 13.  Wherever he got it from, Anthony seems to derive strength from it, especially when deriding an opposing bench or not playing defense.

“No Struggle No Progress” (Neck)

This one is worn like a collar and is visible, from certain angles, on the court.  A theme that will continue to crop up in this analysis is Anthony’s insistence on not using punctuation.  Personally, I think this one would be a lot more powerful with a comma in the middle.  And maybe a period at the end would lend an air of finality to it?  As it reads, though, we can all commiserate with the “Struggle” here.  Whether it’s his Struggle to lose those last 15 pounds, the Struggle to finish a baseline drive in traffic, or simply the Struggle of dealing with all the Haters, I feel you, Melo.  I do.

“WB” (left shoulder)

Ah, yes, the most famous of all the illustrations.  Most readers might find it, at the very least, amusing that a superstar athlete has the Warner Brothers logo drawn just inside of his left shoulder.  Melo maintains (he does!) that the “WB” in question represents his roots in West Baltimore.  But wait, I thought he was was New York City? How can you call two cities “home”? Melo, you’ve got some explaining to do.

“Who Can I Trust” (right biceps)

This one is just downright confusing.  Is he asking a question or making a statement here?  It can’t be a question, again, because of the lack of proper punctuation.  So he must be announcing who he can trust.  Possibly, this is an unfinished work, and he will soon add a list of the people who he can trust.  Like: former Denver teammate Chris Anderson, new wife LaLa Vazquez, president Barack Obama, and, possibly, media conglomerate Oprah Winfrey.

“Live Now Die Later” (right elbow)

This is either an aphorism by which Anthony lives each day like it might be his last, or a nod to Dr. Patterson Stark, a cancer survivor whose book, “Live Now, Die Later”, (StarkHealth Publishing) recounts a life-threatening battle with cancer and how the fight changed his outlook on living.  My guess is the former.  The latter, after all, has a comma.

A Large, Flaming Basketball with the initials “CA” protruding (right shoulder)

The most prominent of the game-visible illustrations, this one seems to announce that Carmelo Anthony’s mere initial have the strange ability to cause normally stable basketballs to combust.  Variations of this theme are echoed in some common sports vernacular, like “He’s on fire!” Can I also just mention here how tired I am with athletes and their body flames?  It’s time for someone to man up and try something new, like some mean-looking snow or a menacing gust of wind.

A bulldog backed by playing cards (Left arm)

Your guess is as good as mine!  I know—hilarious!  Is he claiming to be a bulldog, the traditional western embodiment of persistence, perseverance, fortitude?  Is he?!  Where would these traits would show themselves on the court for Melo?  On defense, where he’s always willing to body up the opposition’s leading scorer?  Uh, no.  So maybe he’s a bulldog in the tirelessness manner with which he hoists shots at the goal?  That’s sounds about right.  Now the cards; those are definitely for cross-country flights and Booray!, the fickle game responsible for many a young cager’s demise.

So there it is.  Now, when you watch the Knicks and Celtics wage war, you’ll have more of an idea of the thoughtfulness, depth, and, yes, even pain with which New York’s gladiator approaches his battlefield.

view from the TD Banknorth Garden courtesy of @AaronGallagher