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Cult Classics: Robert Swift, The Grounded Tomato

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Robert Swift, looking less extreme than he used to look.
Robert Swift, looking less extreme than he used to look.
Though the Oklahoma City Thunder have only existed for four years (last time I checked), it's still nice to step back and take a look at some of the history we've developed over that period of time.And a sometimes forgotten part of that history is Robert Swift.

Swift's long Shaun White-like red hair, black fingernails, and mess of tattoos made him stick out from pretty much every other player on the Thunder bench. But on the court, he was rather unassuming. He had some regular minutes with the Sonics, but he fell victim to injury and got lost in the Thunder's rotation once the team moved to Oklahoma City.

Despite his lack of performance on the court, everyone seemed to know who this guy was, and they all had an opinion on him. If you ask a Thunder fan today what they thought of Johan Petro or Saer Sene, they'd probably give you a funny look and ask you what you were on. But even the casual fan would probably remember Robert Swift. Local radio host Jim Traber went on long tirades about how he "earned" so many thousands of dollars for every made basket that season, despite Swift being on a pretty standard rookie contract.

Others use the name "Robert Swift" as either a definition for the Thunder's first season in Oklahoma City, or a synonym for a failure of a big man. A quick search for his name on DailyThunder or The Lost Ogle will tell you that much.

He was also a fan favourite....among some. Noted Thunder fan Nauzi the Thunder Princess listed Swift as her favourite player. I don't know the reasons for that listing. Maybe it's the allure of a rebel?

But the strangest thing about Robert Swift is that, despite his place in Thunder lore, there's very little information out there about him. A quick internet search will find you some basic stats and show you the fact that he's moved to Japan. But other than that, it's a desert. No highlight videos exist. There's very little analysis of his play. And, perhaps most depressing of all, is that fact that there's no tribute.

Well, that's all going to change today. Because below, you will find 4 reasons to love the former Thunder center, Robert Swift.

4. He destroys fools in NBA 2K11.

The cool thing about sports video games is that people with too much time on their hands can change the fabric of the NBA. Here, you get to see what would have happened if Robert Swift had panned out. Lightning fast pump fakes, steals at mid-court for fast breaks, and spinning fadeaway threes that swish the net. Gotta love it.

3. He was "showing upside" back in 2008.

"Underneath the flop-top red hair and all those tattoos lies a talented basketball player within Robert Swift.

This must be true, or why else would the Thunder be clinging to this great unknown?

Swift is remarkably agile for someone who stands 7-foot-1 and weighs 270 pounds, which are the primary reasons he occupies an NBA roster.

"Mobile guys that size are hard to find," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said of Swift, the No. 12 overall selection in the 2004 draft as a McDonald’s All-American out of Bakersfield (Calif.) High School. "He knows how to play. He has a good feel for the game. He had a real strong showing in high school prior to getting drafted."

Chris "Birdman" Andersen quickly became a fan favorite and the unofficial mascot of the Hornets during his brief stint in Oklahoma City.

Swift could serve as the Thunder’s mascot until the team’s front office actually produces one itself.

Andersen and Swift are undeniably likeable, which is why you don’t judge a book by its cover.

Teammates embrace Swift, and while it’s nice to be nice to the nice, does Swift truly belong in the NBA?"

-John Rohde, NewsOK

The above has to be the most awkwardly written column ever. Probably fitting for the world's most awkward big man. It's pretty much an indication as to how much Oklahoma City knew about basketball back then. When a four year vet's best assets are his "mobility" and his "strong showing in high school", signs are probably pointing to his NBA demise.

But what the column fails to do is really understand the person that is Robert Swift. Rohde talks about Swift being a fan favorite, but even later in the column, he pretty much just talks about his basketball skills, and completely glosses over what made him and Andersen unique. It's like he wanted to go in one direction, but then ran out of material, and did something the complete opposite.

2. He's a superstar in Japan!

Yes, Robert Swift played in Japan, we all know that. But look at the awesome video of him above. He pretty much does nothing but walk around, look at his new uniform, run some random drills with Bob Hill, and look awkward in the middle of the team photo. It sure makes me PUMPED for the upcoming Tokyo Apache season!

1. He Goes For Walks to Get Tattoos

"Swift told me that, with his mother by his side, he attempted to get his first tattoo at around 16 years old. Swift recalled his mother willing to sign any paperwork necessary to allow her underage son to get his ink.

"They said, "No, you’ve got to wait until you’re 18,’" Swift remembered. "So it’s one of those things I always wanted it."

Swift sat down for his first tat shortly after being drafted by the Sonics in 2004.

"I just ended up just walking one day, literally going for a walk because I lived in downtown Seattle my rookie year, and I walked in front of a tattoo shop and went in," Swift recalled.

After 154 hours of tattoo work — the intertwined designs make it impossible to count each tat separately – Swift said his image soon became a talking point, for better or for worse.

"I got the same thing in Seattle," Swift said. "People hated it, didn’t like it. It was the same thing as it is here. People either hated it or loved it.""

While I respect Rob's ability to keep it real with his style, this story is still pretty darned hilarious. I mean, Robert Swift ended up just walking one day. Doing nothing else, just walking. Seriously, he LITERALLY went for a walk. Why? He lived in downtown Seattle! Must be hard to imagine, as we live in Oklahoma City, land of cars.

But the best part is how he just went in on a spur of the moment decision and decided to get 154 HOURS of tattoo work. I mean, he says he wanted to get it done when he was 16, but it seems like he forgot about it back then, remembered it later on, and just said, "Eh, sounds like a cool idea." Robert Swift, ladies and gentlemen.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this look back at the Thunder's most famous cult classic. Last we heard from him, Robert Swift was trying to get a tryout with the Celtics in the fall of 2011. I wish him only the best of luck, as I'm sure everyone would love to see him rock the tats one last time. Regardless, Robert Swift will live on forever in our hearts.

Who's your favorite Thunder player not named Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Perkins, or Ibaka? Let us know in the comments!

Robert Swift photo via STB-1 on Wikipedia.