Will San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker take a leap after his haircut?
The NBA is known for its large personality and eye-catching fashion. From stars such as Dennis Rodman to present-day up and comers like Jaylen Brown, many NBA players have used their hair to build their own personal brand. After becoming accustomed to seeing Lonnie Walker’s bouncy and unique hair on the court, San Antonio Spurs fans are going to have to get used to the new look Lonnie Walker.
Last night Walker cut his hair for the first time since the fifth grade and sent Spurs fans into a minor tizzy on Twitter. His new cut is cleaner and might even make him more aerodynamic, not that he needs any help getting up and down the court. But this all begs the question, what should we expect from the short-haired Lonnie Walker?
You may be familiar with the tale of Samson, the ancient Nazirite who was blessed with near-superhuman strength that let him slay a lion with his bare hands and defeat an army with nothing but the jaw-bone of a donkey. Legend has it that his power was in his hair and that if his long hair was cut he would lose his strength. Thankfully, when it comes to NBA players cutting their signature hair we’ve seen a nearly opposite effect.
He wasn’t the same player he was when he became league MVP but Allen Iverson was still able to rack up a few All-Star appearances after he cut his signature cornrows before the 2009 All-Star Game. Similarly, after cutting his cornrows in favor of a buzz cut, Carmelo Anthony was able to maneuver himself to the New York Knicks and take his career to new heights in Madison Square Garden.
If we’re predicting what the new look Lonnie Walker might do then Melo and The Answer aren’t the best comparables. For that, we should look to another young player who cut his hair to signify a major shift in mindset and a major increase in production. We’ve got to look at Jaylen Brown.
San Antonio Spurs wing Lonnie Walker can take a Jaylen Brown-like leap
Like Walker, Brown had been working on his signature high top for quite a few years. He sported the same hairstyle for his first three years in the league and it became one of his most identifiable characteristics. But after a tumultuous year three in which the Celtics fell short and Brown’s role took a serious hit, the Celtics rising star decided it was time for a change.
In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Yaron Weitzman Brown made it clear that the decision to cut his signature hair was about more than just a physical change.
“I wanted to forget about last year, and that was a representation of the new energy, the new vibe I was looking for,” he says. “People, a lot of times, identified me by my hair, and that was a part of the things I’m trying to get away from. I think people put you in a box, based on what they’ve seen from you, maybe the first time they watched you. I wanted to give people a whole new idea of who I am and what I’m about.”
Post-haircut Jaylen returned to the level he had been at in year two and then took another leap on top of it. He jumped up to become a 20 point per game scorer, looked increasingly comfortable handling the ball and taking on an initiator role in Boston’s offense, and continued to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. His improved play had him in the All-Star conversation and is one of the main reasons why the Celtics are on the short-list of legitimate title contenders.
To his credit, Brown was a better player in his second year in the league than Walker was in his. But he was also given a much longer leash to run with. Brown started 90 games over his first two years compared to Lonnie’s 4. The Celtics needed him to be great quicker than the Spurs needed Lonnie to take a leap, but now San Antonio is looking up at the playoff standings and desperately needs their bouncy young guard to take off.
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One point that Brown emphasized in his interview with Weitzman was that “sometimes you’re as good as the role you’re in.” We saw that in the change he made from year three to year four, when he was given a greater role, the role he clearly was ready for, he made the most of it and became the young star the Celtics needed him to be.
That’s similar to the situation that Walker finds himself in now with San Antonio. We all know he’s incredibly talented, you don’t have to be a former professional scout to tell that he’s got what it takes to be great. But for too long he’s been stuck behind more established veterans, having to prove that he was ready to take on a serious role.
In a recent ESPN article, the network gave the Spurs just a 2.9 percent chance of making the playoffs. It would be nice to say that that prediction was far off the mark but, to be frank, it’s probably pretty accurate. Given the uphill battle they face and the recent injury to LaMarcus Aldridge the Spurs chances of making the playoffs are slim. So why not let the new look Lonnie Walker have the longest leash of his career, set him free, and just see what happens.
When the Celtics made it clear to Brown that he was an integral part of the future of the team, and gave him a role that reflected that, he took off and became a near All-Star. Doing the same with Walker might not turn him into a 20 point per game scorer overnight but it would be a confidence boost for a young player who is key to the franchise’s success.
Sometimes all it takes is a fresh cut to give you the confidence you needed to make that next move. For Walker, a change of style could be exactly what he needed to propel him to the next level we all know he’s capable of reaching.