Ever wondered why so many of the GOATs are bald? While hair may not be a factor in a basketball player’s performance, baldness has been a defining characteristic for some of the most iconic players in the NBA.
From Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant, there have been countless bald NBA players who have dominated the court. In the article below, I’ve listed some of the great bald players (and some who didn’t quite make the top tier!)
Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time. He won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, and started losing his hair early in his career. Jordan famously shaved his head to embrace his baldness.
MJ even forfeited a sponsorship deal with a hair care brand, despite having years left on the contract. “If I had wanted to be greedy, I could’ve said, ‘Screw you, you didn’t know my hair was falling out, so you owe me money.’ But I didn’t.”
Shaq is one of the most dominant centers in NBA history, and he won four NBA championships during his career.
While O’Neal is not completely bald, his hairline has receded a long way. When he lost a bet to Dwyane Wade, he had to grow his hair out to show how far he had receded:
Charles Barkley was one of the most dominant power forwards of his era, and he won the NBA MVP award in 1993.
Barkley reportedly started losing his hair at the crown and decided to shave it all off. “I could grow hair but I have a big hole in my head,” said the former Phoenix Suns man. “You know, when you’re about 25 and you realize like ‘uh-oh’ and you have to just go ahead and come on home, as I call it.”
Barkley has spoken openly about his decision to embrace his baldness, saying that it’s a part of who he is and he’s proud of it.
Magic Johnson is one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. He reportedly started losing his hair at a young age and rocked a buzz cut well into retirement.
At the turn of the millennium, Johnson started shaving his head bald. It has become a signature part of his personal style.
Kobe is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and he won five NBA championships during his career.
Bryant shaved his head around 2002 despite not showing much sign of balding. There are rumors that his sponsor Adidas suggested he shave his head bald to replicate Jordan’s iconic look.
LeBron is one of the greatest NBA players of all time and is known for his incredible athleticism, versatility, and leadership on the court. He has played for several teams throughout his career, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers.
James is also known for his headband, which he has worn throughout much of his career. In 2019, James had to fix the ‘hair’ under the headband when a teammate let him know it had moved during a game.
This made it clear that LeBron was using some kind of hair system to cover his hair loss, but since then he seems to have had at least one hair transplant:
Miller played for the Indiana Pacers for 18 seasons and had a reputation for being able to hit clutch shots in pressure situations.
Off the court, Miller is known for his sharp wit, often making jokes and teasing his fellow commentators during broadcasts. Miller has always been a stylish figure, often pairing his shaved head with designer suits and flashy ties.
Kaman was known for his tough, physical style of play, and was regarded as one of the most aggressive centers in the league during his prime.
He was also known for his unique look, which (after experimenting with long hair despite his male pattern baldness) included a bald head and bushy beard.
Later in his career when the beard disappeared, Kaman joked “I don’t know about the beard… the hair’s definitely not coming back, because it can’t”.
Odom is another retired NBA player who is known for his bald head. He played for several teams during his career, including the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
Odom admitted in an interview with US Magazine that he has been shaving his head bald since he was just 19 years old. He was shaving his head bald by choice and even tried laser hair removal to stop it from growing back.
Tyrone Hill is a former NBA power forward known for his rugged playing style and physicality. Over his 15-year career, he played for several teams including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Miami Heat.
Hill’s shaved head was often cited as part of his menacing appearance on the court, and he was known for his toughness and strong work ethic.
While he didn’t discuss why he chose to shave his head, Hill’s look became a signature part of his persona, and he’s remembered as a fierce competitor who left it all on the court.
Alex Caruso is known for his tenacity on the court, often playing bigger than his size, and his ability to make hustle plays.
Caruso was visibly balding until he made headlines in December 2020 for finally shaving his head. He made the decision after male grooming brand Manscaped offered to donate $10,000 dollars to the Testicular Cancer Society if he went bald.
Vince Carter, also known as “Vinsanity,” is widely regarded as one of the best dunkers in the history of the sport.
He played for several teams throughout his 22-year career, including the Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets, and Dallas Mavericks. Carter was known for his impressive athleticism and high-flying dunks, which earned him the nickname “Half-Man, Half-Amazing.”
In terms of his hair, Carter was usually seen with a closely shaved buzz cut, which he maintained throughout his career. He was seen with a mini afro in the 2000 Olympics, but chose to keep his hair shaved for most of his career.
Popeye Jones played for several teams throughout his 11-year career, including the Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors, and Denver Nuggets.
Jones was known for his physicality on the court, particularly his rebounding abilities. He was also known for his bald head, which he reportedly started shaving in the early 1990s as a way to deal with thinning hair.
In interviews, Jones has joked about his baldness, once saying that “being bald never cost me a rebound or an assist.”
Charlie Villanueva was known for his versatile playing style, particularly his ability to shoot from beyond the arc.
Villanueva was also known for his alopecia, a medical condition that causes hair loss. Villanueva is a heavy user of social media to raise awareness about alopecia and promote self-confidence among people with the condition.
How is started vs How it’s going? Took the challenge, No shave November. Can you spot the difference? #alopecia pic.twitter.com/83qbLZnueB— Charlie Villanueva cvbelieve.eth (@CVBelieve) November 29, 2021
The hoopster isn’t the only public figure to do such great work for alopecia awareness. The condition is the reason Alex Youmazzo is bald, and the model and influencer has been open about her alopecia and helped countless other young women (and men) who are not often represented in this space.
Garnett was known for his tenacity on defense and his ability to score from inside and outside the paint.
He was also known for his intense competitiveness and fiery personality on the court. However, many felt he took this too far in 2010 when he called Villanueva a ‘cancer patient’. ‘Trash talk’ may be common on the court but for many people, this comment crossed the line.
Garnett himself has said in interviews that he wanted to embrace his baldness and not let it be a distraction or source of insecurity for him.
Durant has played for the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooklyn Nets and others throughout this career. He is known for his incredible scoring ability, versatility, and athleticism, and is considered one of the best basketball players of his generation.
In terms of his hair, it has been disappearing at the crown at an alarming rate in his later career. Early in 2023, Durant’s increasing bald spot was photographed during a game and was even brought up during a Twitter spat by none other than Shaq himself:
i don’t kno ball, but i kno how to brush my hair,or decide to cut it when i was going bald. love always THE BUS DRIVER— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 28, 2023
Why are so many NBA players bald?
There’s no concrete evidence to suggest that NBA players are more likely to be bald than anyone else. However, athletes are known for pushing their bodies to the limit, and this can cause all sorts of hormonal imbalances that could explain why many basketball players go bald.
Some of the big names in the game, like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, have made a name for themselves with their shiny, bald heads. When you’re training super hard, your body may produce more cortisol and less testosterone.
And, as it turns out, low testosterone and high cortisol levels have been linked to hair loss. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. There are certain advantages of being bald in basketball.
Players tend to sweat a lot during games and practices, and hair can trap sweat and make it difficult for players to cool down. By shaving their heads, basketball players can reduce the amount of sweat on their heads and improve their ability to regulate their body temperature.
So there you have it, just some of the great bald players to have graced an NBA court. Who did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’re hungry for more shaven-headed sports action, here’s my list of over 67 bald athletes and sports stars.
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