Skin Deep Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore tells the incredible story of his life through his tattoos

I didn’t have any tattoos until I went to college. A lot of the guys at Kansas had them—Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson. They had them, and it inspired me. When I think about it now, I have the most tattoos out of all of them. People always ask me what they mean. Each one tells a story about my life. Sometimes, it’s easier to tell the story through my ink, but I’ll try to tell you some of these stories here.


The Family Name
The first tattoo I ever got was my name across my back. I’m very proud of my family. We grew up in in Wellston, Missouri in St. Louis County. We didn’t have things, but we were always loved. When you grow up in poverty, people look at you differently. I have an opportunity to change that for my family. My family has been a great support system. My mom and my grandma, they always taught us to stay together. Family always comes first over everything else.


This quote has always stayed with me. "People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used." In life, it’s more important to care more about people than things. My being in the NBA isn’t just my doing. It’s my family, friends, coaches, helping me throughout my life. Having the support of people who love you is everything. During my junior year of high school, my school in Wellston closed down. I had to go to Oak Hill Academy to finish high school. I was homesick because I was so used to being around my family. Going to Oak Hill and Kansas helped me mature as a person, but there’s no place like home. When I go back home, I’m the same person I was when I left. I ride the Metrolink to get around just like my mom does. I go to the same places to eat, visit the same people, hang out in Wellston. All of these people are part of my journey. They mean a lot more to me than any thing ever will. It’s people first. Not things.


Forever My Hearts
On the right side, I have my grandparents—my great grandma, my grandma, my godmother. They’ve all passed away. On the left side, I have my grandpa. They are forever in my heart. They will forever be with me, because they all have played a role in supporting me. We didn’t grow up much, but we had so much love, I’m thankful for that every day.


Blood, Sweat and Tears
My oldest brother, Keith, drew that for me. That’s my big brother; he’s locked up now. He gave his blood, sweat and tears to provide for everyone in the family.  He’s been the biggest support to me. He has always been there for me. He’s been gone since I was 14 years old, I visit him in prison every chance I get. During the summer, I was there almost every day.  I know how proud he is of me, and he’s inspired me.


Born to Lose/Live to Win
I believe everyone in this world is born to lose. Everyone is playing for something in life. You always want to win, but most often, you get dealt a bad hand. You have to find a way. My mom always tells me that if you believe in yourself, good things will happen. This tattoo reminds me that you have to believe that you can never give up hope. It doesn’t matter what life deals you. Play the cards the best way you can.


Brother’s Keeper
I have my mom and my siblings’ names inscribed on my arm. I will keep them close to me until the day I die. They are everything to me.


Arabic Characters
My best friends, Haz and Ahmad, are Muslim. The characters in Arabic on my neck mean “humble” and “hungry.” Some of my friends ask, “Are you sure that’s what they mean?” (laughs) I’m sure. It’s definitely what it means. It’s who I am. I remain humble, because I know where I came from, but I am hungry to win. We may be a young team in Sacramento, but we want to be the best we can be. I’m always working to get better. Stay hungry.