Elfrid Payton is now the favorite for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2019.
The Phoenix Suns point guard finally cut what was (sorry) inarguably the league’s weirdest haircut:
If you don’t remember what Payton’s hair looked like before this, or are only hearing Elfrid Payton’s name for the first time now, it’s hard to describe. It was sort of like a surf break, the point where a barreling wave reaches its crescendo just before crashing into his face. You really just have to see it:
Speaking of seeing, I’m not sure he could through that coiffe. We joke about his hair impacting his jump shot, since he’s a career 29.8 percent shooter who rarely shoots from the outside, but if you were to design the worst possible haircut for an NBA player, this was it. It was basically a hand in his face at all times. There’s no doubt it effects his ability to see his shot at times and his shooting form always.
And then there was his infamous air ball from 7 feet against the Brooklyn Nets:
“Don’t get me started on Payton,” NBA veteran Richard Jefferson once said. “Nice kid, nice kid, got nothing bad to say about him as a person. But you can’t take basketball seriously — if your hair ever gets in the way of you scoring one basket, you’re not taking this game seriously enough. You’re not. Like, that’s just it. Like, you see his hair, and it bounces, and some people have to get over a disability, but when your disability is self-inflicted, right? Like, come on. And you’ve seen him. You’ve seen his hair hit the ball. You’re not taking the game seriously. That’s the only thing I have to say about that.”
It would be one thing if the hair had some significance. Then, I’d have felt bad about calling it weird or whatever, and I’m sure Jefferson would, too. But here’s the story, according to The Arizona Republic:
Payton’s high-rise hairdo was the result of a pact he made with his teammates at John Ehret High School in neighboring Marrero, La.
“My senior year we knew we had a good team,” Payton said. “We had a chance to win state so we were like, ‘We should do something to show we’re really together.’ Everybody can’t get tattoos, things like that so we decided to grow our hair until we won state.”
Unfortunately, John Ehret was beaten in the semifinals by Scotlandville. Most of Payton’s teammates got their hair cut. Payton didn’t.
“After the season everybody was like, ‘Cut your hair, cut your hair,’ ” Payton said. “I was like, ‘I kind of like my hair. I’ll keep it.’ I went to college, it continued to grow and that’s how it got to where it is today.”
His hair was paying homage to a heartbreaking defeat. That about sums it up perfectly.
What a brilliant move by Payton to wait until his restricted free agency to finally cut that mop. That way, teams might actually talk themselves into his jump shot improving now his hair isn’t blocking it. Maybe someone throws a few extra million his way on the off chance he can see the court and the rim better. Even if he doesn’t improve, though, he should still win Most Improved, just on aesthetics alone.
Now that Kelly Olynyk cut his hair, Spencer Hawes is out of the league and Jeremy Lin got rid of whatever he was doing with the Charlotte Hornets, the All-NBA First Team Bad Hair is getting thin. (Shoutout to Carlos Boozer’s “shoe polish hair.”) Speaking of thin hair, I feel you, LeBron James.
R.I.P. Elfrid Payton’s weird hair. Long live JaVale McGee’s triple rat-tail, I guess.
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