I’ve been an NBA fan for most of my short life, and this was the first year I was ponying up for NBA League Pass. I was so excited. I was finally going to be able to see all the stars, all the blue-chippers, all the feast-or-famine players who I’d only known through highlight reels and box scores. I’d read about these players before and had a general feeling of what their deal was, and for the most part the impression imparted through journalism proved reliable; these writers weren’t paid for nothing. One exception to this consistency came in the form of a promising young Magic (now Suns) guard by the name of Elfrid Payton. While I’d known the book on Payton, about his promise, athleticism, and lack of shot, I couldn’t have imagined the SOURCE of some of his greatest flaws; his hair.
Flip on a Suns game and your eyes will immediately be drawn to the 6′ 3″ athletic-playmaker with the upside-down baseball cap of a haircut. That player is Elfrid Payton. Elfrid Payton was the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft. A native of Louisiana, Payton went to Louisiana-Lafayette and established himself as a creative play-making guard who lacked shooting touch. Going into the draft it was well known that Payton’s shot would be the key thing he needed to develop to become a high-level talent. This is where it gets weird.
I had heard about Payton’s shot, but I had never heard about the most consistent stuffer of his shot; his hair. Last night I witnessed this anti-Samson brick two free-throws, with each shot bringing the ball through the crest of his preposterous hair-do. Immediately I took to google. A cursory search brought up hit after hit of “Elfrid Payton blocked by hair” results. This wasn’t the first time his locks got blocks, not by a long shot.
My next thought was this; maybe there was a good reason that he kept his cut so crazy. Maybe there was a tragedy in his life that drove him to this. Maybe he’d made a promise to an ailing friend. Maybe he’d even sealed a deal with a charity and this was all going to a good cause. Dear Jesus Christ do I wish the reality I discovered had even a whiff of the altruism I’d imagined.
The reason, again found through a very thorough and hard-hitting google search, is that in high-school Payton and a friend vowed to not cut their hair until they won a state-championship. Spoiler alert; they did not win the state championship. They didn’t even make the finals. Elfrid’s team was knocked out in the semi-finals.
This leaves us with an NBA point guard who refuses to cut his hair in the interest of doing his job better. Making a jump shot against an NBA defense is impossible for the lay man and very difficult for most NBA players. Unless your last name is Curry, Harden, James, or a handful of others which, currently, are definitively not Payton, you’re not getting your shot off at will. So why would a young player with so much promise handicap himself? Why would he not cut his hair, even as just a trial run, to see if it helps? WHY WOULDN’T HE JUST CUT HIS HAIR ANYWAY SO PEOPLE CAN’T POINT TO THAT?!?!?!
I understand that style counts and believe that individuality is more important than conformity. For what it’s worth, I even like Payton’s haircut, I’ve never seen anything like it and respect the cajones to pull something like that off. But there’s a limit. How the Magic or the Suns did not already make a multi-million dollar investment shave his hair into a non-defensive form I do not fathom, but please, please Elfrid, for the Suns, for yourself, and most importantly for your teammates; GET A HAIRCUT.