In honor of Lazar Hayward’s arrival, and thanks to a passing comment during a conversation I had with my editor Wednesday, I’ve decided to do some hardcore investigating.
I’m examining the best headband wearers in the NBA.
Hayward, if you don’t know by now, is a card-carrying member of the headband fraternity. He has been since his high school days at Notre Dame Prep. And after getting traded to the Thunder on Tuesday, Hayward immediately bumped Oklahoma City up the league’s headband hierarchy. James Harden is the only other Thunder player who rocks a headband somewhat consistently. Serge Ibaka has tried it at times as well. But Hayward is all in, which got me to thinking. Should he be? Some guys definitely should not be. Hayward gets the green light solely because of his consistency and commitment to the headband. But he’s not cracking this top 10 list. It takes much more than just a consistent effort to be among our best of the best.
But before I get into the list, it’s important to establish some ground rules. First and foremost, the headband has got to be a part of what defines a player. That means it’s got to be consistent, both as a player’s on-court attire and the manner in which he sports it. In other words, the headband-halfway-up-your-head look ain’t cutting it and will automatically get you tossed from the list. Being too sometimesy, like Elton Brand for instance, won’t work either. Secondly, the headband has got to look good on you in any color, in any uniform, at home or on the road. Since longevity is key, the look has got to stand the test of time and player movement.
Next, you can’t be new to the headband brotherhood. This is a gang you’re born into. We’ve got no room for headband band-wagoners. Take Mo Williams, for example. Anybody recall him rocking the headband in Milwaukee? Teaming up with LeBron James shouldn’t lead you to the headband lifestyle. The headband also can’t seem forced. It’s not here to help you garner attention (Eddie House, Brendan Haywood). You also can’t come off as trying too hard. We’re talking to you Jermaine O’Neal. The headband was cool when you had braids and could ball. It’s not so cool now that you’ve lost all your hair and your skills. Let it go. LeBron, you get lumped into this category, too. Because if you’re under 30 and we can see your receding hairline while you’re wearing a headband, it ain’t for you, bruh. And if you’re bald — Drew Gooden, Corey Maggete — fuhgeddaboudit. Do us a favor and lose the headbands. Al Harrington, you, my friend are worthy of a pass in this department.
Now, after hours upon hours of hardcore analysis and rigorous research, let’s get into the top 10.
NUMBER TEN: COREY BREWER
Brewer is far from a household name, and his production at this point in his carer has him knocking on the door of unemployment. But when it comes to looking the part, Brewer has got it figured out. He’s had the headband as part of his attire since his college days at Florida, and he has transitioned with it seamlessly into the NBA with Minnesota and Dallas. It’s just something about his long and lean frame that makes the headband a perfect fit.
NUMBER NINE: AL HARRINGTON
As stated above, Harrington is the only bald brother that gets a pass with the headband. And he deserves it. There hasn’t been much stability in Harrington’s career. Dude has traveled from Indiana to Atlanta to Golden State to New York to Denver. But the one constant has been the headband. Gotta give it up to homeboy for his commitment. And Harrington’s head piece has worked regardless of if it’s been white, orange, black, red, yellow, navy blue or powder blue. That’s not easy to do.
NUMBER EIGHT: GERALD WALLACE
The thing with Wallace is his headband works with or without braids. The long hair now only enhances the headband. But Wallace’s headband also has traveled from Sacramento to Charlotte to Portland. So he’s consistent with it. With Wallace now in Clifford Robinson’s old stomping grounds, you know his headband game is legit if he can still pull it off.
NUMBER SEVEN: STEPHEN JACKSON
OK, so Jackson for a time fell prey to the headband-halfway-up-your-head look. But everyone makes mistakes. He just happened to fall for this fad for a brief period before sticking with the classic look. It dropped Jackson a bit in this ranking, but he’s still definitely a top 10 member. Jackson’s got longevity with the look, displaying it with at least five teams in San Antonio, Atlanta, Indiana, Golden State and Charlotte, and soon to be a sixth in Milwaukee. More importantly, Jackson’s ultra-smooth game is the perfect style of play that gives credence to a baller like Jackson hellbent on rocking the headband.
NUMBER SIX: JASON TERRY
The Jet has donned a headband for over 10 seasons, dating to his days in Atlanta. It’s as much a part of his uniform as his customary high socks and left forearm band. What sets Terry apart is he takes consistency to another level. For every game, Terry has to have his headband positioned a certain way: cocked to the left, with the NBA logo just above his left eye. Give him bonus points for style.
NUMBER FIVE: JOSH SMITH
The Atlanta Hawks high-flier has been a long-standing member of the headband brotherhood. He regularly wore his headpiece in high school, back during his days at Oak Hill Academy. So we know with Smith the headband is no act. These days, you rarely will see Smith in a game without one. Matter of fact, you might never see Smith play without it. That’s how hardcore he is with his headband. But Smith has also given back to the headband community. When you’ve posterized as many cats as Smith has, it only gives the headband a new level of exposure.
NUMBER FOUR: PAUL PIERCE
Pierce has taken the league’s most classic uniform and made it even more retro by enhancing it with an old-school headband. Pierce likes to keep it simple, too. He goes white with the home white jersey and green with the road greens. Every once in awhile he’ll throw in a green and white striped headband. And while not as consistent as Terry, Pierce has a fondness for positioning the NBA logo front and center or to his right, in between his ear and right eye. Also worth noting, Pierce’s headband didn’t truly become a fixture in his uniform until his fourth season. It just so happened that was the same year where he netted a career-high 26.1 points per game. The power of the headband!
NUMBER THREE: ZACH RANDOLPH
Z-Bo didn’t always have the headband. He went without it at Michigan State and during his first few seasons in Portland. But he found his calling while with the Blazers and has, for the most part, made it a part of his ensemble ever since, sporting it with the Blazers, Knicks, Clippers and now the Grizzlies. Randolph may have had some consistency issues throughout his career. But his nearly unstoppable offensive game and the fact that the headband look just fits him more than atone for that history of unfaithfulness to the headband. Plus, we think the look is here to stay for Z-Bo.
NUMBER TWO: BARON DAVIS
You know your headband game is on point when you have to put it on just to throw a pass in a dunk contest. That’s how hard Baron Davis goes. Davis has worn the headband for at least 10 seasons and has stuck with it from Charlotte to New Orleans to Golden State to Los Angeles to Cleveland. Only one thing kept Davis from taking home our headband crown: he’s injury-prone. Davis has played 153 fewer games than Jason Terry despite entering the league at the same time. That much missed time only destroys brand recognition and hurts the headband brotherhood. Still, for Davis to be this high in spite of his stable of DNPs speaks volume.
NUMBER ONE: CARMELO ANTHONY
The king of them all. Melo has mastered the art of the headband. He’s had an affinity for headbands since high school. A headband has been a part of Melo through bushy hair, braids and fades, at Syracuse, with Denver and New York, in All-Star Games and the Olympics, in press conferences and photoshoots, on videos and video game covers. No one does it better. Melo’s headbands have always been clean, crisp and consistent. He’s set the standard for all who aspire to wear the headband. Melo, more than anyone in the league today, is a walking example that if you’re going to do it, you need to do it right.
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