Pitchfork   The Dissolve   Festivals: Chicago | Paris

If there's a better way of telling Dikembe Mutombo's life story than through an animated version of the hoops star, we can't think of it. To mark the re-release of Mutombo's signature adidas basketball sneaker, illustrator Nathan McKee and animator Jamal Qutub created a web series called "The House of Mutombo" following the eponymous protagonist from his early days in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to his finger-waving notoriety in the NBA. Mutombo narrates the series. The clips are only about a minute each, but myth making doesn't take much longer than that with original lettering, charmingly 2D animation, and an inexplicable hawk that pops up in episode two.

Check out the first three episodes and some images from the series below.

Photo by: Adrian Skenderovic | Lost Hoops

Relatively unknown street photographer Adrian Skenderovic has been shooting basketball hoops during his travels around the globe. Some are makeshift, some neglected, while others are more than up-to-snuff despite their far-flung locations. The photographer is still exploring different angles and formats. The empty court with tropical backdrop shows up a bit, but also the sun-baked, holding-on-by-a-thread hoop close-up. Both formats are effective in their own way and have us longing for a good neighborhood ballgame, as well as a tropical adventure. Time to work on the fadeaway jumper.

See more Lost Hoops at Adrian Skenderovic's photography site.


Photo by: Jason Jagel | His Royal Airness

In a pivotal moment where commerce, pop culture, and sports converged, Michael Jordan's dominance spilled from the hardwood onto our cultural landscape. We witnessed the transformation of athlete to brand, to something even greater—a signifier of sheer will to win, the Jumpman 23. 

So it's not surprising that even as he celebrated the big five-oh this year, his aura still radiates. As a birthday gift to the man himself, the Jordan brand approached the creative media and design agency Doubleday & Cartwright, and handed them the task of putting together a private, one-night-only art exhibit of Jordan's storied life, held over NBA all-star weekend, at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston. The project objective: to parse out the Jordan legend into 50 stories to be interpreted visually by 50 different artists, including projects by Grotesk, Rich Tu, David Rathman, Gustavo Dao, Ryan Dugan, Sophia Chang, Jason Jagel, and Lola Dupre, among others. A one-off book of the exhibit will be presented to MJ as well. 

DD & Cartwright collected first-hand accounts from MJ's intimate associates to create a multidimensional story that cast Jordan not only as the archetypal winner but as someone whose influence shifted our experience of contemporary culture. DD&C's Kimou Meyer assembled a roster of artists who could re-channel '90s culture and sports iconography in the form of a Jordan story. The goal was to illustrate the many dynamics at play in Jordan's life, ranging from the career milestones to insider lore and untold stories. Meyer had only 10 days to do it.

"We had submissions that ranged from realistic portraiture in acrylic paint to minimalist design-based pieces to smoky ink-and-watercolor landscapes," said Meyer. "We even had a rendition of MJ's high school emblem created from chain-stitching, which is basically an antique method for embroidering fabrics, as well as a fictitious cigar box label rendered with pyrography, a method of burning a wooden surface by hand with a hot needle. We assigned everybody a specific topic and story to tell, but beyond that we left it completely open to the artists to interpret those stories in whatever style and material they wanted." Coupled with each visual was a small text blurb, which formed the seed of the story, and was often interspersed with quotes from long-time friends, competitors, and mentors.

Featured in the exhibit was artwork that nodded to MJ's fierce, competitive spirit—his forays into baseball, golf, and motor sports and his request to have a ping-pong table installed at the arena so he could play against fellow teammates and reporters, the "Chicago Breakfast Club." There were some pieces that touched on his pop-culture status, such as his involvement with Spike Lee and his Wheaties box appearances (he’s made more appearances on the box than any other athlete). There were others that cast him as a tastemaker, breaking league uniform rules by wearing red and black shoes, and triumphing in the process. And there were even stories that painted Jordan as a prophetic visionary, as when he boldly predicted to shoe designer Tinker Hatfield that people would be wearing the Jordan 11s with a tuxedo. Soon, Boyz II men were showing off new 11s on the red carpet at the Grammy's.

"Jordan was like a superhero. It was amazing to watch him—in real time—create mind-boggling feats of super-humanity: the hang time and circus shots especially," said SF-based visual artist Jason Jagel, who was asked to contribute to the exhibit. Jagel's assignment was a bit more abstract. As one of the first athletes to shave his head, MJ transformed baldness into style, and Jagel's job was to recreate a Chicago-style barber-shop piece, replete with slang, referential odes, and classic hair-cuts of the time.  "I stick my tongue out when I paint," said Jagel. "Not on a Jordan level of course."

Whether it was Jordan himself who changed the relationship between pop culture, sports, and commerce, or if he was simply the first athlete co-opted for multinational marketing is a moot point, according to Meyer. "Regardless, the fact is that he transcended sport and became a cultural icon to an extent that was never seen before and probably hasn't been achieved since. It's a level of influence that you see most athletes aspire to today, but it all began with Mike."