CHICAGO — Coby White could let his hair down Sunday night — literally.
With 33 points in the Chicago Bulls’ 126-117 victory over the Washington Wizards, the Chicago guard became the first rookie in NBA history to score 30 points in consecutive contests while coming off the bench. That scoring output from a reserve hasn’t been recorded at least since the NBA officially began tracking starters in 1970-71, according to the Elias Sports Bureau research.
He also joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls rookies with back-to-back 30-point games. White’s secret? His hair.
“Yeah. It gives me powers,” White told ESPN. “That’s what everybody says. It’s kind of my trademark.”
White first started growing his hair at Greenfield School in Wilson, North Carolina, as a high schooler. The newly turned 20-year-old started off with a unique, curly-styled afro, which he claims gives him on-court superpowers, but since the end of December, he has been spotted with natural, two-strand twists in his hair, which hangs half up, half down.
“I still got it, the twists just add the extra oomph,” White said, laughing. “I got tired of the fro. It wasn’t a good look for me anymore. It started to get too long. I didn’t really feel like cutting my hair, and I liked the twists. I think they’re fire. I always change it up every now and then, but these are just easier to maintain.”
Chicago snapped its eight-game losing skid, which was the longest active streak in the league despite Wizards guard Bradley Beal going off for a career-best 53 points. Bulls guard Zach LaVine also added 32 points off six 3s for the Bulls, while setting the franchise record for triples in a season.
White got off to a hot start with 26 first-half points, which were the most in a half by a rookie this season, according ESPN Stats & Information research. His seven 3s in the fourth quarter against New York on Nov. 12, 2019, were the most by any rookie in a quarter in NBA history. One night later in Milwaukee, he became the youngest player to hit at least five treys in consecutive games.
But the former North Carolina Tar Heels star has experienced highs and lows while shooting just 37.3% from the field on the season. Even after these past two strong offensive performances, Bulls coach Jim Boylen isn’t so quick to insert him into a starting role.
“We’ve got a second group that’s playing pretty good again, and we’re also melding Coby into that first group at times in the game, so coming off a two 33-point games, I don’t know if it makes sense to do that,” Boylen said. “We’ll examine it, we’ll look at it.”
In an NBA in which former MVP James Harden’s facial hair and Anthony Davis’ unibrow have become part of their personal brands, White sees his hair as someday becoming a thing. His older sister, Tia White, didn’t believe he would continue to manage it at first when he started to grow it as a teenager.
“I just thought he has nice hair and eventually he would get tired of it,” Tia White said. “But it’s become his signature look now.”
Once Coby started to become more serious, Tia recommended him to family friend and beautician Treesha Young of The Beauty Bar in their hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina. Young was responsible for managing Coby’s hair, while he focused on basketball. Whenever he would come into the salon, Young said some females would get jealous of his hair length.
“We started with shampoo and conditioning. And then we would section it into four sections, then comb through each section and detangle it and then trim it,” Young said. “I love it. Especially with the different pictures where he’s modeling and putting it up.
“The pony tail is new; he would normally just wear like a headband around it, but his signature look, as he used to say, was just trimming it down,” she added. “In the front on the sides, he just wanted it to drop. Just how it falls, he would want it to fall to his face, to the side and in the back. He don’t really like it away from his face, he likes the way it drops.”
Although White isn’t able to lock in frequent visits with Young as much as he did in high school, she’s still on him about maintaining his hairstyle from afar while a local stylist, Tamika Murray of Chicago’s Spring’s Place Salon, took over in the Windy City. But for White, like most superpowers, his comes naturally.
“I don’t really put nothing in it,” White said. “I just started growing my hair out and it grew this way. It was curly and all natural, so I decided to keep it. You’ve got to wash it, obviously, but other than that I don’t put nothing in it.
“Now, that basketball season is in, I probably wash it once a week, but other than that, I get up and just rub my head. That’s it. I don’t put nothing in it. I just get up and go.”