The only person who can cover the 76ers’ big man is his tattoo artist.
The “G.H.O.S.T.” tattoo circling Dorell Wright’s left shoulder is one of his most recognizable pieces. “I know that pops out because I see that one on the video games,” says the 76ers forward. And “ghost” seems an appropriate emblem of Wright’s game. On the offensive end, he’s able to float out beyond the three-point line, quietly setting himself up to score; defensively, he is a relentless, nimble, inescapable force haunting his opponents into giving up the ball. But for Wright, the tattoo means something else: “It’s something me and one of my closest friends thought of, Go Hard Or Stop Trying.”
The emotional investment of “going hard” is as big a part of Wright’s game as the three-ball—he’s one of those guys whose face is as easy to read as the scoreboard. His repertoire of smiles and scowls has made him a favorite of fans who are happy to see a player treat the game with the same urgency they do. Wright was drafted by the Miami Heat for this exact quality, selected by Pat “whatever it takes to win” Riley, who saw in Wright the competitiveness that builds championships. One of the last prep-to-pro players, Wright entered the NBA directly from high school, part of an elite group that includes Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. But Wright sees himself as a part of another equally critical segment of his generation: “I’m happy to be a part of a group that really express ourselves through body art.”
Growing up in Los Angeles, Wright spent his life aware of the stigma attached to tattoos, both on and off the court. “A lot of people have been judged just because they have tattoos, but I think that era is fading away,” he says. Reflecting on the criticisms of NBA tattoo pioneers like Dennis Rodman and Allen Iverson, Wright celebrates the fact that today’s discussions about tattoos in the league are more about the quality of the work itself. He notes that even previous generations are adjusting their attitudes. “A lot more older people are getting tattoos—even my mom has a few tattoos now,” he says. In fact, Wright took his mother to get her first tattoo, proudly coaching her through her first session in the chair, as a gesture of gratitude for allowing his own first session at age 16. Now almost 10 years removed from that first piece, Wright is one of the most covered players in the league, part of an expressive new wave of tattooed NBA stars.