A full set of gel nails isn't in the preseason schedule for most professional basketball players.
But Hawke's Bay-based Tall Black Ethan Rusbatch is hoping to silence the haters on and off the court after a new colourful manicure.
The Bay Hawks player will be sporting a set of gel nails from Napier's Elaines on Emerson for the upcoming NZ National Basketball League season – something he hopes will inspire others to express themselves.
The 28-year-old, whose cousin Kendrick Perkins won the 2008 NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, said it wasn't until a themed party that he thought to get his nails done.
"My friend Lance is a dancer and has done it for a while and I've always thought it looked cool," he said. "And soon after the party, I decided I'd play with them done and get different things on them each week.
"A couple of teammates are going to dabble with it for fun, but I mostly get comments from women appreciating them when paying for things over the counter."
NBA Hall of Famer and five-time championship winner Dennis Rodman frequently showed off his eccentric side with painted nails during his 20-year career.
But the 186cm (6ft 5in) shooting guard, who has had two spells with the New Zealand Breakers, says the look is simply his form of self-expression.
"I think everyone should be comfortable expressing themselves - whether it's nail painting or a mullet down your back," he said.
"If you're happy, do your thing."
Born in Christchurch, Rusbatch has played for Southland Sharks, Taranaki Mountainairs and Canterbury Rams and won the New Zealand Basketball League's Most Improved Player award in 2019.
He was also a bronze medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Rusbatch says the importance of silencing the haters has never been more important.
"You're always going to have haters, but like my good friend and ex-teammate Kareem Johnson says: 'You know you're doing something right if you got haters'," he added.
Originally signing for the Bay Hawks in January 2018, Rusbatch helped the side reach the grand final in 2019 before a one-season stint at the Breakers.
The baller was set to rejoin the Hawks in 2020, but the team chose not to enter the modified, Covid-affected season. He recommitted to the Hawks for the 2021 season, which begins on May 2.
Rusbatch said getting back to 100 per cent game shape is his goal for the season ahead.
"I want to put myself in a position where I can play at the highest level," he said.
"And as a team, the obvious goal is to win it all - despite having them haters who will do all they can to try stop our success as a team and as individuals."