After the men’s basketball team’s first round exit this past Saturday, there are probably a million hypothetical situations flooding fans’ minds. What if the players had not been sidelined right before the tournament? What if Virginia had shot better than 26 percent from beyond the arc? Yet, what if the most consequential hypothetical had nothing to do with scheme or shot making? What if, in some alternate universe, the Cavaliers’ success depended on a mere hairstyle?
While he was a measure of consistency in previous years, in the 2021 season junior guard Kihei Clark found himself in a bit of a funk. A quick, in-your-face playmaker on some nights — on other nights it seemed that the increased responsibility proved too much to bear. In his first season with the Cavaliers, Clark was trusted to lock down dynamic opposing point guards and sometimes distribute on offense, but as the primary ball-handler these past two seasons, the Woodland Hills, Calif. native has had to provide on both ends of the floor — showing flashes of brilliance but also moments of disappointment. Missing key shots down the stretch and shooting a mediocre three-for-10 with only nine points against Ohio, Clark rounded out his junior season in disheartening fashion.
Now with the 2021 season over, Clark’s hairstyle may be the key to a more promising 2022 campaign.
Clark altered his in-game look six times this season, never playing with the same hairstyle-headband combo for longer than three consecutive games. Is there a chance this transient style could be tied to his inconsistent play? Well, it is not without precedence.
Prior to every game of Michael Jordan’s illustrious career, the “GOAT” would first put on his old North Carolina practice shorts before slipping on his NBA game shorts over them. Jordan believed these beat-up shorts were the lucky charm he needed to succeed. While Clark is not even in the same stratosphere as Jordan, there is something to be said about the impact superstition has on athletes of all skill levels. The 5-foot-9 point guard may simply be in search of a form of self-expression, but what happens when one hairstyle leads to better on-court results?
Of course, with such a limited sample size of data, it would be presumptuous to make any actual conclusions about Clark’s most effective hairstyle. At the same time, when has reason stopped sport fans from making absurd takes? For the next two minutes, we ask you to welcome the takes, indulge in some superstition and try to have some fun as we attempt to offer some explanation for Clark’s up-and-down season.
A widely popular hairstyle where the hair is braided very close to the scalp, Clark donned the Allen Iverson-esque cornrows only twice during the 2021 regular season. In terms of individual performances, Clark showed out in this style, dropping a season-high 19 points against both Gonzaga and Notre Dame. That said, the Cavaliers went 1-1 in these games, which makes for some ambiguity in the effectiveness of “Cornrow Kihei.” For individual performances, this style bodes well for the 2022 campaign. However, the same cannot be said for overall team performances — yet.
The man bun is when the hair is pulled back and twisted into a bun at the top or back of the head. Perhaps an ode to the former Wahoo sharpshooter Kyle Guy, Clark donned the man bun seven times throughout the season, boasting a 5-2 record with this hairstyle. Yet, when it came time for March Madness, the man bun proved to be a fateful decision. The Cavaliers fell to No. 13 seed Ohio in a 62-58 nailbiter, as Clark shot an aforementioned 30 percent from the field. Unlike “Cornrow Kihei,” the man bun by itself does not project well for the 2022 season.
Clark’s natural hairstyle this season was not what Virginia fans were used to, as he opted for shoulder-length locks rather than his more familiar short trim. Compared to other styles this regular season, his overall performance going natural was fairly modest, with no season-highs and only mediocre scoring and assisting numbers. On two occasions, however, Clark decided to spice it up with a man-bun-and-natural-hair combination, and the Wahoos went 2-0 with this style. In the end, the natural hair may have fostered an air of consistency. The Cavaliers went 11-3 — notably securing the ACC Regular Season Championship — when Clark donned his natural ‘do.
All styles aside, there is an elephant in the room which seems to substantially increase Virginia’s win percentage. When Clark wore a white headband, the Cavaliers went 11-1. Without this accessory, the Cavaliers’ record drops to a measly 6-5.
With the Cavaliers looking to bounce back next season, a superstition like a lucky hairstyle may be the difference between another early tournament exit and a legitimate championship run. Upon strenuous review and hours of number-crunching, we advise Clark and his industrious hairdresser to adopt a natural-hair-man-bun-headband trio for the 2022 NCAA Championship campaign.
Tony Bennett, thoughts?