Rather than see his mural commemorating the Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of LeBron James defaced for a third time, artist Jonas Never whitewashed the wall in hopes of putting an unexpectedly controversial issue to rest.
As he told ESPN, Never rolled white paint over the mural on Wednesday after someone splattered yellow paint on the wall outside of the Baby Blues BBQ restaurant in L.A.’s Venice neighborhood.
The issue, as Never sees it, stems from the murals original caption, which declared James the ‘King of L.A.’
An unknown vandal spray painted a yellow line across the mural over the weekend, adding the words ‘No King,’ ‘LeFraud,’ and ‘3-6,’ the latter being a reference to James’ lifetime record in the NBA Finals between his two tenures in Cleveland and one stint in Miami
After the wall was vandalized a second time, artist Jonas Never decided to whitewash it
Never’s first fix was to remove the word ‘of,’ since some Lakers fans objected to the idea that the team’s new player could be ‘King of LA.’ Never left the four-time MVP’s nickname, ‘King’
That title can be seen a bit presumptuous, considering the franchise has already won 16 NBA Titles before James even joined the team, and Never suspects the culprits to be loyal to five-time champion and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
‘I thought I had learned a long time ago to never touch religion or politics,’ said Never. ‘I guess it is never touch religion, politics or anyone against Kobe.’
Fans immediately took issue with the ‘King of L.A.’ moniker when it was painted last week, with one offering $300 in a since-deleted tweet to anyone who defaced the mural.
It didn’t take very long.
An unknown vandal spray painted a yellow line across the mural over the weekend, adding the words ‘No King,’ ‘LeFraud,’ and ‘3-6,’ the latter being a reference to James’ lifetime record in the NBA Finals between his two tenures in Cleveland and one stint in Miami.
The damage was nothing that couldn’t be fixed, and within a few hours, the mural was restored with one minor change: The word ‘of’ was removed.
But even if the caption was left with a reference to James’s nickname, ‘King James,’ the graffiti returned this week, prompting Never to paint over the entire mural entirely.
According to ESPN, the entire mural took 12 hours of work over a few days, and necessitated the use of a bucket of paint and 75 spray cans. Never worked with graffiti specialist Fernando Valdez.
Never’s mural of James did receive some positive reactions, according to the artist, who has also done portraits of Kobe Bryant (No. 24), Lonzo Ball (No. 2), and Brandon Ingram (No. 14)
Never says the reactions to his mural were mixed, overall.
‘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.’
With James signing a four-year, $153 million to play for the Lakers, the possibility existed that Never would be repairing the mural for the foreseeable future.
With that being the case, he thought it best just to whitewash the entire wall.
‘I know when to cut my losses,’ said Never, who has also painted a Kobe Bryant mural. ‘The first vandalism was made easier to swallow because, by all accounts from the Twitter debate [over it] that we saw, it looked like a guy offered up a $300 bounty to anyone who destroyed the mural. Some guy did it and posted video of him doing it and responded to the guy and said ‘Pay me.”
Never does not know who the vandal is, but he does hope to do a mural of the entire team, which he thinks would be less controversial.
‘I can’t see anyone getting mad about the whole team,’ Never said. ‘[Kyle] Kuzma, LeBron, Lance Stephenson blowing on LeBron.’