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Kevin Durant reveals the reasoning behind his 2Pac and Rick James tattoos

There is a method to Kevin Durant’s Tupac Shakur and Rick James tattoo madness.

In a wide-ranging interview with Mercury News beat reporter Logan Murdock, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant discussed his “epiphany about being black in America” over the past 18 months.

That time period included his move to the Bay Area and coincided with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of social injustice. Those events, among others, led Durant to revisit his own coast-to-coast journey from the Washington, D.C., area to Oakland, California, and contrast his experience with other black men who might not be as fortunate as the eight-time NBA All-Star.

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“I didn’t have it as rough when it comes to that, as far as social or systematic oppression or any social issues,” Durant told Murdock. “They didn’t really apply to me because I could put a ball in a basket. Just me saying that kind of woke me up a little bit, like ‘Damn, that’s all I’m good for?’ Like, if I wasn’t a basketball player, what kind of man would they look at me as, you know what I’m saying?”

With these ideas in mind — inwardly lending an ear to the true spirit of black culture and outwardly giving a voice to those who are not being heard, tuning into the past and harmonizing the future — we recognize that Durant’s racial awakening also included a pair of tattoos on his left leg: one of Tupac Shakur and the other of Rick James, respectively inked before and after the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Once prone to getting “business tattoos” undetectable beneath an NBA jersey, these were front and center. Still, Durant offered little explanation for his new ink, other than to say of the 2Pac tattoo, “To be so young and say the things he said. Who is thinking like that at that age?” This all left his tats open to interpretation, and the most predominant theory was that Durant was channeling his inner Pac — another Maryland native who embraced a “Me Against the World” persona in the Bay Area.

But as Durant has increasingly begun to voice his opinion on political and social issues, he’s now prepared to reveal the meaning behind his tattoos, and you will understand there’s a theme developing here about introspection and advocation when it comes to being black in America.

Here’s Durant’s explanation, via The Mercury News:


“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. It’s that at that age, for you to be thinking about the stuff you were thinking about, at 22, 23 years old, and he died at 25, like … young people don’t think like that.

“So for him to have that type of mindset at that age where he’s projected to be around, today would’ve been like Gandhi, you know what I’m saying? Or like Nelson Mandela-type intelligence for our culture, our people, our voice as being from the neighborhood. He meant so much to having me just think a different way. From watching him, following his story, following every interview I can.


“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. He’s a big piece of my life. In a weird-ass, crazy way, Rick James meant so much to me.”

There are those who criticize any athlete for wearing any tattoo proudly, and if you’re one of those people, that requires a bit of introspection on your part. And there are those who will criticize Durant for using his leg as a canvas for Shakur and James — a pair of late entertainers and activists, both of whom had complicated legal histories — but KD’s ideological motives for getting those tattoos should give you a better understanding of why they’re there. And if you don’t respect that, then you’re probably the type of person who would look at Durant a certain way if he weren’t a basketball player.

Read the entire exchange between Durant and Murdock. There’s more behind what you see here.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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