These legendary athletes tangled with each other on the hardwood NBA court for years. I’ve entangled their signatures together onto wooden panels, representing their storied rivalries.
Sports memorabilia collectors are often obsessed with autographs. However, I find these signatures much more interesting when taken out of their expected composition and transformed into something new. A casual observer may view these paintings and see simple, abstract squiggly lines. A keen eye will reveal more.
Bill Russell vs Wilt Chamberlain
These two giants of the early NBA are arguably the No. 1 sports rivals of all-time. Russell’s Celtics won 7 of 8 playoff series against Chamberlain’s Warriors, 76ers and Lakers teams. The two played in four Game 7s against each other (’62, ’65, ’68 & ’69), and Russell won all 4... with a combined margin of just 9 points. Russell is the only player in NBA history to appear in at least ten Game 7's, and not lose a single one. Russell’s 11 titles make him the greatest champion in all of team sports. Chamberlain would win just two.
Magic Johnson vs Larry Bird
This rivalry begins in college with the 1979 NCAA Basketball Championship Game. Magic led Michigan State to a 75-64 victory over Bird’s Indiana State. That set the stage for a decade-long rivalry that would transform the NBA. Throughout the 1980s, either the Lakers and/or Celtics appeared in every NBA Finals during that decade. The two rivals met head-to-head in the finals three times (’84, ‘85 & ‘87), with Magic’s Lakers winning twice. Magic finished his career as a 5x NBA champion. Bird won three with the Celtics.
Michael Jordan vs Isiah Thomas
The Bird & Magic chapter of the NBA closed when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls finally became champions, defeating Magic in the 1991 NBA Finals. However, Jordan’s path to greatness first went through Detroit. The feud between Jordan and Thomas (a Chicago native) began in the 1985 All-Star game, when Isiah refused to pass the ball to Michael. Then, for 3 years in a row (’88-90), Thomas’ Pistons defeated Jordan’s Bulls in the playoffs, while playing a physical and dirty brand of basketball. Detroit became known as the ‘Bad Boys.’ This fierce rivalry shifted on Memorial Day in 1991, as the Bulls swept the Pistons in Detroit to advance to the NBA Finals. In a cowardly and unsportsmanlike fashion, Isiah and teammates scurried to the locker room during the final seconds, without shaking hands with the victorious Bulls. Jordan won his first of 6 NBA titles (two 3-peats). Thomas won only two.
Each original painting is 24 x 36 inches, made with spray paints and acrylics on wood.