One way he thought to help make the long months ahead more enjoyable was to change his hairstyle. Last season in his rookie campaign with the Knicks, Shumpert wore a low buzz cut. He quickly decided he did not want to return to having a long ponytail or braids, as he did when he was a teenager. So Shumpert’s older brother, Ahrii, who has been his barber since Iman was in eighth grade, asked what he thought about trying a haircut popular in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Shumpert eventually landed on the high-top fade. From the moment he was carried off the court with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus during the first round of the playoffs last April to his season debut Thursday in London, Shumpert has grown the hair on the top of his head but has kept the hair on the sides and lower back of his head trimmed.
“At first, it was just to see how long I could grow my hair before I came back,” said Shumpert, who shares the look with Miami’s Norris Cole, perhaps the only current N.B.A. players wearing the high-top fade. Shumpert, who was born in 1990, added: “When I was growing up, all my cousins had high-top fades. I thought it would be cool to see how long I could grow a high-top.
“Everyone in London loved it. For the most part, people like it. My mom said the ladies like it.”
The hairstyle became popular in the black community in the late 1980s. The hip-hop group Kid ’n Play wore high-top fades in the “House Party” movies. The hairstyle had a presence in the N.B.A., too.
The Web site Bleacherreport.com listed the top-10 high-top fades in league history, which featured players like Patrick Ewing, Robert Horry and Charles Smith. Of that list, Shumpert’s high-top fade most resembles the one Kenny Walker wore as a Knick.
Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Iman Shumpert now has a high-top fade.
“It’s cool because you have hair, but you have a fade at the same time,” Shumpert said. “I could put designs in it, parts,” he said before pausing to add, “all that type of stuff. At the same time, you still have the pick-style Afro.”
Most of Shumpert’s teammates have told him he should leave the high-top fade in the past.
“It’s awful,” J. R. Smith said. “It was cool for a while, but he’s taking it too far now. He got to cut it.”
Shumpert, who at 22 is the Knicks’ youngest player, said Carmelo Anthony and Kurt Thomas joked daily about his hair. “They just want high tops,” he said. “They want it, but they’re too old.”
Shumpert said he planned to keep his high-top fade. When Shumpert’s mixtape album, Th3 #Post90s, was released in December, his high-top fade was the focal point of the album cover. He loves the haircut so much he has a tattoo on his left forearm of Johnny Bravo, a cartoon character with pompadour-style hair.
Coach Mike Woodson, who is bald but has spent years working on his famous goatee, laughed when asked about Shumpert’s hair.
“Everybody has their choice,” Woodson said. “He’s a good-looking dude. If that’s what he wants to wear, so be it. As long as he plays well is all I care about. I just think he wants to be taller.”
When the Knicks play the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, it will be Shumpert’s first game back at Madison Square Garden. Last season, fans gravitated to Shumpert because of his personality, his tough perimeter defense and his high leaping ability. Now, they can also talk about his hairstyle.
Shumpert said he also takes pleasure in knowing his hairstyle helped him in a small way get through his rehabilitation.
“I had a lot of fun with it,” he said. “But I’m having even more fun now that I’m out there playing basketball again.”
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