Street Artist Gives LeBron James Billboard a New Look

Ethan SkolnickNBA Senior WriterOctober 8, 2013

Photo taken by the author.
Photo taken by the author.

While the Miami Heat were recuperating from a week of training camp in the Bahamas, a street artist who calls himself TMNK was doing some work to the scenery across from AmericanAirlines Arena.

That work caught many players' eyes as they entered the arena on Sunday and Monday for a practice, scrimmage and preseason game.

So what did TMNKwhich stands for "The Me Nobody Knows"do?

First, he scaled up to the billboard in the center of the parking lot which advertises the video game NBA 2K14, which LeBron James endorses. 

"Relatively uncomplicated," TMNK told Bleacher Report by phone on Tuesday.

Then he sprayed "Nobody," using James' head as an "O" and adding "can stop me!"

Finally, on the lower left he sprayed "#RIPREEFA."

The latter might require some explanation outside of South Florida. It refers to another street artist, a teenager whose real name was Israel Hernandez, who died after police officers Tasered him in the chest in early August. According to the Miami New Times, more than 200 people rallied for "Reefa" on Sunday in Miami Beach.

TMNK, who moved to Miami from New York City a few months back, said he has become a fan of James and the Heat. He said he was inspired by the comments Michael Jordan made about being able to beat James one-on-one. He wanted to make a statement not only on James' behalf, but alsoas a father of a nine-year-old sonon behalf of a teenager he wants the public to remember. That's why he added the hashtag.

"Nobody can stop LeBron as a basketball player, nobody can stop me as a street artist, and nobody can stop Israel Hernandez's life and his message. He lives on," he said.

He did, however, want to make it clear that "this was not a shot at police" and that he would feel the same angst if a policeman or policeman's child was killed.

"It's about someone who lost his life unnecessarily," he said.

In fact, he even praised the conduct of the officers who arrested him.

That's rightTMNK was arrested on 13 counts of criminal mischief, because the paint dripped onto 13 cars. He was released on $65,000 bond.

He said he was "remorseful" for the damage done to the vehicles, since that was not his intention.

"I took a risk to make a statement," he said. "I never try to be malicious with what I do."

Usually, his signature is the word "Love" plus a slash over the word "Hate" written backwards, meant to mean "Love Over Hate."

He emphasized that James "didn't pay me, didn't authorize me" to defaceor enhance, depending upon your perspectivethe billboard.

So what would he tell James if he could speak with the Heat star?

"That I'm not writing on walls to be a clown, but that I care about humanity," he said.

TMNK didn't get that chance Monday, but Bleacher Report did get to ask James, following Heat practice, if he'd seen the billboard. James confirmed that he had. Told that it was meant to be a tribute, James replied with a smile: "It's all good, it's part of culture."