It certainly wasn’t his skill on the court that got James Joyce bartender Emmet Bentley to the NBA in recent weeks. Rather, for the Santa Cruz native and longtime S.B. resident, it was his penchant for oddly entertaining — and, some might say, ugly — tattoos that thrust him onto the national stage. Already the proud owner of legendary on-skin masterpieces such as a Unicornicopia tramp stamp, A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez’s Saved by the Bell character), a Slayer logo on his shin, and Glenn Danzig riding a wolf-horse creature across his thigh, Bentley answered an on-air challenge by hoop star–turned–TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal to get a tattoo of fellow retired hoopster–turned–talking head Charles Barkley.
During the Christmas holiday, Shaq pledged $1,000 to whoever would get the likeness of Barkley kissing NBA referee Dick Bavetta forever etched on their body. On New Year’s Eve day, Bentley, with a little help from the boys at 805 Ink, answered the call and used Twitter to show Shaq the evidence now permanently enshrined just above his ankle. Little did Bentley know, that was only the beginning of his hoop-flavored fame.
On-air with Shaq, Sir Charles, and the rest of the TNT in-studio NBA analysts on January 5 to talk about his new ink, Bentley found himself faced with yet another potential tattoo challenge. In what seemed like more joke than an actual gauntlet thrown, Shaq offered another $1,000 if Bentley would go back to the tattoo chair and ask for a Mount Rushmore–inspired piece with profiles of all four TNT hosts.
Well, last Monday, Bentley cruised down to L.A. to meet up with Shaq before the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks game and get paid for his new ankle art. In a classic live television moment, Bentley informed Shaq that he might have to “hit the ATM a little harder” just before taking off his shirt outside of the Staples Center and showing off the new Rushmore-styled work featuring Shaq as Kazaam. Shaking his head in disbelief, Shaq grinned at the barkeep and said, “So I owe you $2,000 then? All right, man, $2,000.”