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SI: Male, actually. When Dock Ellis was pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the '70s, he sometimes worked out in curlers. The story goes that he was warming up for a game when a teammate said, "I've been meaning to ask you—why is your hair in curlers?" To which Ellis replied, "Oh, after the game I'm going out."
King: In those cases, an athlete must make sure his sport doesn't mess with his head. Dock didn't want his hair to get caught up with the ball or the bat. Instead of having to get it reset in a beauty parlor, he just waited for the game to end, removed the netting and left for the races or wherever. Simultaneously, his date—if she ain't at the ball game—was probably somewhere else getting her hair curled for this gala evening.
SI: What's your position on the role of hair spray in sports?
King: It depends. I don't use nothing on my hair. All I do is wash it and oil it up. Each hair spray is destined to do something unique and extraordinary. So I guess they do the job psychologically as to what you are brainwashed to do before they are even applied. In fact, the word brainwash may have been derived from the hair spray.
SI: Jherri curls?
King: The problem with them is that they are not au naturel. My hair is. I don't know how it got here, I don't know why it's here, but I'm trying to find out. The cosmic rays of the sun mold it into a pyramid every morning at five. That's the most powerful time of the day. The skull turns into a subterranean cavern where all the vital brain germs cogitate and congeal and the mechanism and the machinery and the power of the thing dwells. You have the part of the mind for those who are visionary, the part for those content to accept whatever happens, and the part for those who know what it was yesterday, what it is today and can prognosticate about what it will be tomorrow. This machinery operates under the great protective shield of hair.
SI: All this happens at five in the morning?
King: Yeah, five or six. While others dream, my hair parts like the Red Sea, opening my mind to the magnetic fields of the solar system.
SI: How does it feel?
King: S.K.D., which in the ghetto means Something Kinda Different.