Best Afros in Sports History
I'm not low maintenance. I don't disappear in a crowd. And you can put that stupid hat back on the rack.
The afro isn't a lifestyle as much as it is a statement—a pound on the chest that says "Put your clippers away, barber man. This isn't just hair. This is a sanctuary."
Indeed, the afro is an expression of the spirit—an expression athletes have been adopting and making their own for the last fifty years and longer. The following is a celebration of the most glorious 'fros to ever float over the field of play.
These are the best afros in sports history.
Honorable Mention: Leon Sandcastle
The one and only Leon Sandcastle.
Word on the street is that the Keebler Elves live in his hair. No, he doesn't even charge rent. What a guy.
Honorable Mention: Dan Marino
Dan Marino had a borderline afro during his playing days.
He blurred the line between afro and mullet (as seen in Ace Venutra: Pet Detective), but Marino deserves credit for going full length in both the front and back.
He's by far the most ambiguous selection you'll see here today, and deserves at least an honorable mention for refusing to trim down.
Locks of love they were not, but Bill Walton's signature mop was an auburn ball of unabashed ginger glory.
He once tried to hide that flame under a patchouli-soaked bandana, but you can only a cage a red dragon for so long until it breaks free. That's just nature.
He's a strong proponent of the mini-fro.
World B. Free
Two thirds of the world is covered by water. The other third, however, is World B. Free's bald spot—which the former NBA journeyman attempted to conceal by growing a thick hedge of hair.
Unfortunately for Free, his afro didn't come with a front gate, and the poor man's lengthy crown was left unguarded to the meanderings of neighborhood kids, who frequently used the area for stickball and model rocket launches.
Some might look at the pile of locks that once rested atop Bernie Kosar's head and say "That's not an afro. That's not even a haircut."
And to those nonbelievers I say "Nay, good sirs. 'Twas a afro—an afro with a mother raccoon nesting betwixt its nebulous, curly layers."
Like Bird Law, the Afro Statues in this country are vague at best and never governed by reason.
If one wanted to be overly technical, one could argue that Tiquan Underwood's towering column of amazingness is a "flat top," as opposed to an "afro."
We can quibble over the fine print of what does and does not constitute an afro, but look at it this way: If a flightless creature like the penguin can still be considered a bird, I think Underwood's eraser top falls under the genus of "afro."
This all is semantics, however. My primary concern is that you stare at and appreciate this pillar of human hair for no fewer than five seconds.
Thirty years old and still 'fro-ing strong.
To my knowledge, Josh Childress is the oldest current NBA player with an afro. The fact that the New Orleans Pelicans announcer doesn't lead with that fact during player introductions will never cease to amaze me.
When your sideburns have afros—you're doing things right in your life.
Artis Gilmore is another man of the seventies and eighties who doesn't receive the credit he deserves for his contributions to the afro'd athlete. Today we honor him, and his immaculate sideburn chops.
You'd have better luck picking winning numbers at the roulette table than figuring out what form Andrew Bynum's hair will take next.
That being said, I'm just glad he went full afro. Even if just for a moment.
That's not a giant poodle hovering at midfield—it's just Marouane Fellaini.
Between his 6'4" frame and the cartoonish bush of curly black hair on his head, the Belgian midfielder is hard to miss.
Also, make note of the eyebrows. Those are afros in the works.
While only released as a limited edition, one time deal, Michael Beasley's "voluminous" afro caught attention of NBA fans and media members around the country.
Bring it back this December, Mike. Heat fans would love nothing more than a win and a holiday afro this Christmas.
Allen Iverson's afro is like the Kraken—he doesn't unleash it often, but when he does, it destroys frigates and eats sailors.*
One of the few men in Nebraska who would be difficult to lose in a corn field.
It was Billy Joel who once said "Only the good die young."
I know he was referring to the notion that it's the best and brightest people who pass away too soon, but it feels like he was talking about Ben Wallace's afro.
After becoming an enduring symbol of power and commitment with the Detroit Pistons, Wallace's untamed bouffant met its early demise in 2009. With its passing, the world lost more than an old friend—it lost a witness to history.
We'll never forget you, Ben Wallace's Afro. You survived the Malice at the Palace only to be cut down in your prime by a senseless pair of Wahl's.
Good night, sweet prince.
I'll never forget where I was the day I watched Joakim Noah walk across the stage at the 2007 NBA Draft.
I was watching the draft at a Beef O'Brady's. My girlfriend and I had just broken up. And I was crying.
Were they tears of sorrow over a woman? Or streams of happiness over the sight of Noah's goofy 'fro pouring out from beneath his Bulls cap? I'll never know.
Is it natural? Is it a product?
To this day, Carlos Valderrama has one of the best heads of hair you could ever hope to possess. The Columbian midfielder looked like a lion on the field—a lion with a big hoop earring.
Of his many personalities, "Afro Randy" was Randy Moss' wildest, cockiest iteration.
Whenever you saw Afro Randy, you knew things were about to get interesting. Afro Randy was untouchable on the field and in his own mind.
Former prep football star Derek Knott made national headlines for his ridiculously large afro.
Knott has since moved on to play college football at LeHigh. His hair, however, continues to perform at Pro Bowl levels.
Moochie had an afro. His bobblehead had an afro.
And the world was a better place.
Though it has fallen prey to the merciless trimmer, CoCo Crisp's afro and its beautiful symmetry was enough to inspire poetry in the human heart.
Oh CoCo's afro, shall I compare thee to a summer beach ball?
Thou art more spheroid and more lustrous.
Than these orbs spiked by drunken hands throughout the Coliseum
And beach balls hath all too short a lease on life
As they are always popped by a random jerk
And bounce nevermore, nevermore...
Contrary to popular sentiment, Oscar Gamble was referring to his afro when he once famously said "They don't think it be like it is, but it do."
While nonsensical at first, Gamble was merely making a statement on behalf of the shaggy, sentient being resting atop his head.
In Hair-Speak (the language of hair), the statement roughly translates to "People don't know my hair thinks thoughts, but it does."
If you weren't in on this little secret, then you'll be glad to know that Magic Johnson had one of the flyest afros in high school basketball history in the '70s.
I wonder whose style Magic was trying to emulate?
Finally—the piece de resistance.
When you find the words "sports" and "afro" in the same sentence, Julius Erving should be the first name that pops into mind.
Dr. J was a pioneer for afro-rocking athletes during the '70s and '80s, and his hair style coupled with his hops have come to symbolize the dawn of the high flying acrobatics in the NBA.
Erving's afro spawned copycats and video game characters in its image. When you see "Stretch" in NBA Street, you don't think "baller." You think "Dr. J."
The afro will never die.