LeBron awed by court mural
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 27, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - NBA star LeBron James never imagined his image would be painted on a cement basketball court and was clearly impressed when he saw the 92 feet by 45 feet mural of his likeness at the Tenement Building in Western Bicutan, Taguig, during the Manila leg of his recent Nike Rise Asian tour.

Nike Philippines country marketing manager Patrick Reyes said James’ heart fell when he walked into the Tenement Building. “It reminded him of the hardships of his early life in Akron,” said Reyes. “I think he was blown away and even left his handprint on a cement cast which is like leaving his legacy at the Tenement. LeBron has a soft spot for kids and he came back to our country knowing the Nike Rise program is about enabling kids with the opportunity to rise from the ground to a better future.”

James called the Tenement Building an “amazing place” in a post on his Instagram @kingjames. “An abandoned parking garage that’s been taken over by more than 5,000 displaced family members,” he wrote. “This basketball court is its heart and soul and if it weren’t for basketball giving the kids a distraction from the bad influences around them, the state would tear it down. Honored to have my likeness grace this space. Of course, it’s humbling to know that you’re inspiring people all over the world, all the way to your homeland. I’m also grateful…it’s a really cool thing that they would do something like that in their home and allow me to be an inspiration to them.”

The mural was done by tattoo and street artist Maya Carandang of Marikina. It took Carandang 48 hours spread over four days to finish the painting which consumed 12 gallons of quick-dry paint in orange, black, white and blue. He was asked to execute it by Tenement resident and local rapper Mike Swift.

“All I used were latex, rollers and paint brushes,” he said. “I did it with one assistant Leonard, a Tenement resident. I couldn’t do the work straight because of the rains. I also got help from boys and girls in the Tenement. They helped in some painting and cleaning. It’s actually not 100 percent done. There’s still about 10 percent left for me to do. When LeBron came, I wanted to meet him but I was stuck outside the Tenement with my girlfriend. I would’ve wanted to see the smile on his face when he saw the mural.”

The painting was the biggest ever by Carandang. He also did the garage wall of mixed martial arts fighter Brandon Vera in San Diego but the Tenement mural is over three times bigger. The Vera mural depicted the fighter as a gorilla and his girlfriend as a tiger in a forest setting.

“I’ve been going back and forth to the US competing with the Philippine All-Stars dancers since 2005,” the 31-year-old Carandang said. “We won two world championships in 2006 and 2008. My friend Floyd Evangelista, who lives in San Diego, introduced me to Brandon. I still dance but now also coach. I do tattoos and murals out of my shop, Think Tattoo, in Marikina.”

Carandang, a UP fine arts graduate major in advertising, said he painted James from a picture given by Nike. “I painted him wearing the LeBron 13 kicks which aren’t out in the market yet,” he said.  Reyes said the mural gave sneakerheads a sneak peek at what the LeBron 13s will look like.

“LeBron’s basically a shy guy, an introvert,” said Reyes. “But I saw his eyes light up whenever he was with kids. Coming to Manila for the second time in three years wasn’t just for a visit. LeBron came with a purpose and that was to inspire kids through the Rise program. The crowd of over 10,000 was impressive at the Mall of Asia Arena but what really made an impact on LeBron was his visit to the Tenement.”

James turned into a fan when he cheered for 12-year-old Kristine Cayabyab in the three-point shootout during the Mall of Asia show. Cayabyab, who stands 5-7 and wears size 10 men’s shoes, won the contest by scoring 15 points to beat Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena and Perlas Pilipinas’ Ewon Arayi who both tallied 11 of a possible 25. “LeBron stood up raising both arms with each triple scored by Kristine,” said Reyes. James later gave Cayabyab an autographed basketball and signed her kicks.

 James’ trip also marked the launch of a limited edition LeBron 12 low “Rise” shoe, especially designed by Nike’s Erick Goto who has Filipino roots. The shoe is exclusively available in the Philippines in short quantity and was inspired by Filipino elements. It is predominantly blue with speckles of red and yellow to reflect the Philippine flag with the pulltabs on the back showing MNL for Manila, a tongue badge that looks like the Philippine coat of arms and markings of the longitude and latitude of the country coordinates.

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