Muralist Jonas Never and graffiti artist Fernando Valdez spent 12 hours over two days creating a mural of LeBron James on the wall of a Venice, Calif., barbecue restaurant after the NBA megastar signed with the Lakers in free agency. But someone didn’t take kindly to its “the King of LA” message, and the painting was vandalized less than two days after it was completed.
Undeterred, Never painted over the vandalism and tried to modify his message by removing the “of” from “the King of LA,” making it less a declaration of James’s status in his new digs and more a nod to his nickname. That didn’t work, either: At some point early this week, someone splattered yellow paint over the mural. Deciding enough was enough, Never painted over the mural on Wednesday, explaining its erasure on Instagram.
Here’s a video of Never painting over his mural, followed by a separate video of someone (not Never) throwing a shoe at James’s paper head, which had been taped over Kobe Bryant’s head on another mural featuring the former Lakers star.
“I don’t know if it’s LeBron haters or Kobe fans or just someone who wants attention,” Never says in the video. “The funny thing is, I painted Kobe a couple of years ago and people, like, were very quick to forget that one.”
The mural saga illustrates just how weird the situation could get for James in Los Angeles, where Bryant retains immense popularity two years after his retirement. But it’s also weird that fans of a once-great team that’s gone five seasons without a playoff berth — its longest previous drought was two — are struggling to embrace the greatest player of his generation, who could’ve gone pretty much anywhere and chose the Lakers. So what if James made the move to further his post-basketball career? The Lakers are immediately, undeniably better with him on the roster. Did you see the clown-car cast surrounding him last year in Cleveland? He dragged that group to the NBA Finals.
As for Never, he seems to be taking it well and told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that he has another Lakers mural in the works, this one featuring the whole team.
“I got a ton of support,” Never said. “At first when we had the original piece, there was a ton of positivity, but also a ton of like pro-Kobe, anti-LeBron sentiment. [Some] people didn’t like it in general, not necessarily the work, but the sentiment that went with it. People had a big problem with the word ‘of.’ I get where they are coming from.
“This was just for my own fun, just being happy that the Lakers were actually going to be talked about again,” he continued. “And I didn’t realize that a mural would be [almost] as talked about as much as the Lakers would be.”
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