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SI: What about tennis players like Andre Agassi who constantly preen for adoring fans?
King: That's vanity! He's just telling you he's on a self-destruct course.
SI: So you think Agassi's hair will eventually do him in?
King: Not his hair, his vanity. He primps at the expense of his talent. Nowadays, the first thing many sports figures do after gaining wealth and fame is alter their hairstyle to a more traditional one. It's a way of saying they've made it. They demand, "Get me something that will make me look like the big stars: Clark Gable, Bruce Willis, Jack Paar...."
SI: Jack Paar!?
King: Sure. These big athletes try to emulate and imitate instead of just being themselves. They forget what brought them to what they are: hard work, dedication, tenacity, doggedness. The black athlete says, "I've got a limo, a Rolls, my kids go to private school, but gee, something's missing." They sound out the wife: "Henrietta, what would you think if I get me some of that wavy hair like the white athlete's got?" When they change the hair that got them to where they at they do. That's why Howard Cosell bought a wig. But his hair is man-made. My hair is God-made. That's the difference. But the symbolism is definitely there. In fact, I represent the symbolism.
SI: The first athlete to use his hair symbolically may have been Ernie Holmes, the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive lineman who in 1975 had his hair sculpted into the shape of an arrow. Holmes said he wanted to know where he was going.
King: It's always good to use your head for something other than a hat rack.
SI: A lot of contemporary athletes have messages shaved into their hair. Boxer Jorge Paez wore NO DRUGS in his hairdo during his April featherweight title bout. Dennis Rodman of the Detroit Pistons had I LOVE ALEXIS, referring to his daughter. How long before we see corporate logos? When will fighters start having DON KING PRODUCTIONS stenciled into their hair?
King: I don't believe a fighter's hair should be tampered with. It's a great ornamental bush that can be pruned, but not chopped to the roots. A naked head is an exposed brain venue. A boxer's venue can be destroyed much more easily if it's without a protective covering.