by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

It is not my place, as a travel-weary journalist with a clanking jump shot, to offer sky-walking, world-famous, unspeakably rich professional basketball players a hair-styling tip.

But I’ll do it anyhow.

Yo. NBA.

What’s with all the bald heads?

I go to a Pistons game last weekend, I’m lost. I can’t tell half the players apart. Bald. Bald. Bald. It’s like a Hare Krishna convention.

No less than six, count ’em, six totally hairless Pistons. Half the team. And I’m not including Ron Rothstein, who is losing his hair the old-fashioned way, though stress.

Six dome heads. And here’s the thing — they do it voluntarily! Some even get paid to do it! Really. Before Sunday’s game against the Bulls, Olden Polynice, who shaves his scalp, offered $600 to teammates who would do the same.

Back in the ’60s, we would have said, “Cut our hair, Olden? Are you freaking out, man?”

Sunday, the response was: “Six hundred?”

And before you knew it, two more Pistons had gone smooth and shiny. They are Danny Young and Gerald Glass, or, as we now refer to them, Curly and Uncle Fester.

Who started this?

Now, I am trying to pinpoint who started this bald-is- beautiful movement that has given us, in recent years, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Xavier McDaniel and countless others. Michael Jordan may be the NBA’s most famous skinhead, but he is not the first.

Nor is he unusual.

On the contrary. Even before the Sinead O’Connor look, even before Dennis Rodman stopped writing letters and began shaving them into he back of his head, the NBA had a long tradition of truly awful haircuts. And considering that basketball, of the four major sports, is the only one without helmets or caps, well, some of these hairstyles were nearly unforgivable.

A brief history of dos that didn’t. Talk about bad hair days:
* 1. Bill Walton, always a fashion plate, gave the NBA a look we in the hair-watching industry like to refer to as “Neanderthal.” It worked well in NBA cities such as Walden Pond and Mount St. Helens, but otherwise, it was a disaster. True, you could hide snacks in the beard. But there was one major drawback: in addition to drug testing, Walton had to be checked regularly for fleas.
* 2. Artis Gilmore was actually 5-feet-3. But with his massive Afro, he became one of the tallest centers in NBA history. Unfortunately, whenever he took a shower, his teammates would say, “Hey, where’s Artis? He was here a minute ago . . .”
* 3. Slick Watts was one of the early bald-domers. But unlike Curly Neal or Luke Jackson, Slick introduced the headband as a new twist. Why he needed a headband when he had no hair, I’m not sure. As Arsenio Hall might say, “It’s a sweat thing.” Why do you think they called him “Slick?”
* 4. Here you see Dick Versace modeling the always popular “Amadeus” look. This works well when living in Vienna, or posing for the one-dollar bill. Otherwise it was a washout. Dick and his do are currently out of league, and rumor has it he can’t come back until he cuts the hair, or rakes it.
* 5. Once upon a time, Chris Mullin looked like a normal kid — as normal as you get growing up in Brooklyn. Now, Mullin looks like an inmate in Stalag 17. Some people think this style is cool. Four people to be exact: Jughead, Reggie, Betty and Veronica.

Willing to try anything

As you can see, the bald look is just one in a long line of NBA head cases. I can’t say exactly when the “fade” became the “fade away.” But as a child of the ’60s, I find it depressing. Back in our day, the song lyric was
“Gimme a head with hair!”

Today, it’s “Gimme a jar of Nair!” But OK. I am hip. I am willing to try anything. So as you witness in the mug shot above, I am experimenting with the Yul Brynner thing. I am mowing the razor over my cranium. I am hip.

The problem is, at my height, basketball players keep leaning over to look at their reflection in my scalp. Which leads me to this final thought:

Olden, I want my $600. I want it now.


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