Drew’s ‘do drawing recognition for more than one reason
It took Drew Gooden 25 years to realize his dream of playing in the NBA Finals.
His journey took him across the country: from his hometown of Oakland, Calif., to a basketball scholarship at the University of Kansas, to NBA stops in Orlando, Memphis and Cleveland.
Once he had reached the apex of his professional career, last week in the NBA Finals, reporters flocked to talk to him --bout his hair.
Gooden's hairdo can best be described as mostly bald with a patch of hair on the nape of the neck. It has spawned the term vertebeard. Some call it a rat tail. Gooden himself calls it a duck tail and claims it is the height of fashion in Oakland.
Star Koya, manager of Oakland's Hair Today Hair Tomorrow, said no patron has ever asked for the duck tail cut. She has seen it around the Bay Area, although almost exclusively by a demographic Gooden surely can't be emulating.
"Old dudes try to wear that to look young," Koya said.
Gooden's barber from college, Tim "Nelly" Nelson, has a theory on the hair-don't.
"The reason he has it was because he can't get a good haircut!" Nelson said.
Nelson still speaks to Gooden on a weekly basis. Their conversations revolve mostly around busting each other's chops, offering Nelson ample opportunity to give his unsolicited professional advice on the unfortunate hairstyle.
Nelson cut Gooden's hair monthly in Lawrence. Nelson called the recurring cut "schoolboy." The KU star's hair was closely and evenly trimmed during his time in Lawrence.
Has Nelson been asked to cut the duck tail for a fan?
"Nobody wants that. Nobody!" Nelson said. "That is one of a kind."
The son of KU legend Danny Manning agrees. Evan Manning, 14, sports a mini-afro of curly brown locks. Would he ever consider shaving his head into a Gooden-like style?
"No," Manning said. "Absolutely not."
Gooden takes the ribbing with good humor.
"It is drawing a lot of attention," Gooden told insidebayarea.com. "One thing I've found out is even negative publicity is good publicity. At least I had the (guts) to do it."
Gooden asserts the attention he has received from women has been positive.
"I went from getting compliments to now being sexy," Gooden said.
Janine Colter, manager of the Hidden Jewel Hair Salon and Spa in Lawrence, respects Gooden's commitment to personal style.
"I have to say as a professional that a lot of things go that used to not go," Colter said. "But if that is how he likes it, then go Drew!"
The hair has become a national phenomenon. A search of "Drew Gooden Hair" on Google elicits 72,200 hits.
Styledash.com gives Gooden a "style foul." Anne Metz writes, "This series I've been utterly fixated on Drew Gooden's unfortunate coiffure. How bad is it? Well, remember the butt-cut Steve Nash used to rock? Well, if you can believe it, Gooden's hair is even worse than that!"
Maybe it is a Kansas thing.
Scot Pollard, a 10-year NBA veteran and former Jayhawk, spent this season as Gooden's teammate on the Cavaliers.
Pollard has at one time or another sported a Mohawk, a single ponytail and a bald head. He generally grows out mutton chop sideburns. He earned the nickname, "The Sacramento Samurai" as a member of the Kings for growing his hair out and pulling it into a rubber band before games.
Nelson does get requests for Pollard's hairstyles.
"All the time," Nelson said. "I did a pair of chops yesterday, actually."
Gooden and Pollard currently have more to worry about than their respective hairstyles. The Cavs were swept 4-0 last week by the San Antonio Spurs.