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Inked and Delivered: talking with Jason “Jet” Terry about THE Tattoo

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Temerity or stupidity? Or does it matter?

Dallas Mavericks Victory Parade Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images

If somebody endeavored to put together a list of famous tattoos that adorn professional athletes in America, they’d have a lot of content to piece together — pro athletes love tattoos.

People get inked for deeply personal reasons — to help remember family, friends, a special time (good and bad) in their lives. And some people get inked up just because. For a lot of the spontaneous tattoo getters, it has been said that getting inked is akin to an addiction.

And then you have the subset of people who get a tattoo as a way of inspiration. When they look at that tattoo, it’s supposed to remind them about why they’re doing whatever it is that they’re doing — or about to do. On October 19, 2010, in Orlando, Florida, then Dallas Mavericks guard, Jason “Jet” Terry fell into this get-inspired subset.

The Dallas Mavericks were in Orlando for a preseason game vs. the Magic. Former Dallas Mavericks guard/forward DeShawn Stevenson invited the team over to his Orlando home for a team-bonding get-together the night before the preseason game.

What happened that evening in Orlando, culminating with Jet leaving DeShawn’s house with a tattoo of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, is one of the best pieces of NBA lore: a player had the gumption, the temerity to actually get the championship trophy tattooed on his body as an inspiration — and then actually went out and earned the real trophy that very season.

The ninth anniversary of that Orlando get-together is this month, so Mavs Moneyball caught up with the Texas Legends’ new Assistant General Manager, Jason “Jet” Terry to talk about that evening and the details surrounding The Tattoo:

MMB: The ninth anniversary of that get-together at DeShawn’s place is coming up soon, what was the idea behind that evening?

JET: Oh yeah, DeShawn set up a preseason bonding event for us, some food, watch some games, basically to talk with the guys about the [upcoming] season and see how guys were feeling coming into that season.

MMB: Did any of you know that DeShawn was going to have his tattoo artist come over that evening?

JET: No. So after we ate, we hear a knock on the door and it’s DeShawn’s tattoo artist. Now, everybody knows that DeShawn Stevenson loves tattoos, I mean he has his whole body, face, everything tattooed. So he was like, “Hey guys, my tattoo guy is here, he’s gonna brush me up on a couple that I haven’t finished, and then he’s here to do pretty much whatever you guys want.

MMB: Had you thought about getting the O’Brien Trophy tattooed on you before that night?

JET: No, not really. Some of the guys were thinking about what kind of tattoos they’d want to get that night, some of them had names they wanted, and some actually had designs they were looking at. But me, the whole concept of the night was we were all talking championship, so I was thinking to myself, “well hell, I mean I’m gonna get the Trophy and let me see what the guys think about that because I know we got the team to win it.

MMB: Did anyone there try to talk you out of getting the Trophy tattoo?

JET: No, I don’t think anybody knew besides DeShawn, really. This was a side conversation between me and the tattoo artist.

MMB: Did the tattoo artist have to internet search the O’Brien Trophy, and how long did the tattoo take?

JET: Yeah, he went online to get a picture of it and I was “Yeah, that’s fine, let’s do it.” He found one and it took about an hour to mock it up, and it took about another hour to do the tattoo and we were done. Now, with tattoos, you have to keep it covered for the first few hours so nobody got to see it other than DeShawn that evening.

MMB: So you wake up the next day (game-day) with this unexpected tattoo. What are you thinking?

JET: When I woke up and saw it, I felt really strong. I was convinced. When I thought about what the organization had been through trying to win it all, trying to get the correct roster to complement Dirk, I think I realized that we had it. We had all the pieces we needed at every position to go along with Dirk, so I knew we were The Team.

MMB: How did the team react the next day?

JET: We had a good shootaround, and then coach [Rick Carlisle] brings it in and I’m like “Oh yeah, fellas remember what we were talking about last night? I think we got the team to do it, so uhhh, check this out”, and then I unveiled it and we were like “CHAMPIONSHIP! on three!”. Some guys laughed, some were like “damn, that’s cool” — and really after that, nobody really talked about it….well, until we won the championship.

MMB: What was Rick Carlisle’s reaction to the tattoo as you unveiled it after the shootaround?

JET: Well, Rick typically has a stoic look on his face, but he had a look of surprise and shock, a kind of dazed and confused look almost like when you turn the ball over in a game — so yeah, that was the look on his face then. But he shook that off and if there was a thought bubble floating above his head that day it’d read: “This guy’s crazy!

MMB: In the years since the tattoo and subsequent championship win, there have been stories out there about you making plans to remove or alter the O’Brien Trophy tattoo if Dallas didn’t win the championship. Can we set the record straight on that?

JET: No. Not at all. I mean, I’ve got over 25 tattoos and I’ve never removed any of them. They all have meaning, some crazier than others, but I never planned on removing that tattoo. Once they’re on, they are on because they all have their own unique story behind them.

MMB: How much does the tattoo play into the memories you have about one of the most improbable playoff runs in NBA history?

JET: Obviously for me, it plays a huge part in the memories of the most memorable time in my career — the backdrop of the story behind the tattoo, the write-ups, and then actually going out and accomplishing it, it took a ride of its own.

MMB: Almost a decade later, do you still talk about the tattoo with former Mavs teammates?

JET: More so fans than teammates. Fans always want to see the tattoo, especially when they take pictures with me. It’s funny, sometimes I’ll have on a long-sleeve shirt and they’ll still want to see the tattoo and I’m like “Come on, man I gotta take my shirt off?”, but I do it. It’s a legend. Folklore, I call it.

* * *

The 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks would go on a historic playoff run during which, at times, it appeared they were outmatched or simply out of juice. But somehow (usually behind their bench) they pulled together to get it done.

The four-game sweep — really a dismantling — of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semis was especially stunning to see. Jet hit nine three-pointers in the close-out game (11-of-14 overall from the field) on his way to scoring 32-points in 25-minutes. With each successive made three-point shot, the focus zeroed in on that O’Brien Trophy tattoo on the right bicep of the arm that was shooting the lights out of the mighty Lakers.

Jet would go on to outplay LeBron James and company in the NBA Finals as the Mavericks secured the franchise’s first championship.

The temerity or the “stupid” decision (depending on how you viewed his tattoo decision) to get the O’Brien Trophy tattooed before the season ultimately paid off for the Mavericks, and especially for Jet.

Inked and delivered.