When Jeremy Biggers was growing up in South Dallas in the mid-1990s, you were either a football player or a basketball player. The latter was cheaper and easier to practice alone, so Biggers chose the hardtop over a pigskin and pads.
“I was terrible,” he admits. “I don’t think I started playing until I was 12, and all of my peers in the neighborhood had been playing since they could hold a ball.”
Meanwhile, a 21-year-old from California named Jason Kidd was injecting life into the stagnant Dallas Mavericks. Biggers became an instant fan of his hometown team’s new star.
“I realized you didn’t have to score to be good at basketball,” Biggers says. “I patterned my game after that. I became more of a facilitator, more of a floor general.”
It was more than Kidd’s style that appealed to Biggers. He loved the rhythm of basketball. He loved how its players were both athletes and acrobats, gliding across the court and through the air, working in harmony to achieve a common goal.
“Basketball is probably the most singularly artistic sport,” Biggers says. “It’s all about motion and kinetic energy.”
Those were the themes he tried to evoke when, over two decades after Kidd caught his eye, the Dallas Mavericks contacted Biggers. The 12-year-old floor general grew up to become one of Dallas’ most recognized and recognizable creatives. He is the man behind the Selena mural in Bishop Arts, the director behind Bobby Sessions’ brutal “Like Me” video and a collaborator with brands like Nike, Adidas and Cheetos. Yet until 2019, Biggers had never partnered with his favorite sports team. The Mavericks’ Posterized project changed that.
Late last year, the Mavs announced they were teaming up with 20 local artists to create game day posters for select home games in 2019 and 2020. The Posterized series called on a variety of artists to bring their talents to American Airlines Center.
Appropriately, the project began with an idea from a Mavs fan. Chris Paliotta, a self-professed art geek and project manager at UT Southwestern Medical Center, who was contracted by the Mavs "to devise an out-of-the-box visual art experience," he says. Paliotta pitched his vision to the Mavs’ creative team.
“It started with one slide deck,” he says. “Dallas is full of incredible artists, and Posterized would be a major conduit to showcase the city's rich hotbed of talent.”
After he got a green light from VP of the Mavericks Creative Studio, Dale Alexander, Paliotta started cold emailing artists, many of whom had never created a poster before. That was intentional — Paliotta wanted perspectives from people far outside sports fandom, and so did Alexander.
“Basketball is probably the most singularly artistic sport. It’s all about motion and kinetic energy.” — Jeremy Biggers
“We can’t be saying, ‘Basketball, basketball, basketball!’ to everyone all the time,” Alexander says. “We have to come up with creative ways to entice people for who basketball might be their third favorite sport, or maybe they like art and video games more than any sport.”
Muralists, graphic designers and illustrators were all part of Paliotta’s artistically diverse group, which included Arturo Torres and Joe Skilz. Each artist chose one of the 20 home games the Mavs brass picked for Posterized events, and then received a short list of guidelines. At the games, the artist and their poster are introduced on the AAC video board, and 100 high-quality prints are available for fans to purchase. Beyond the predetermined game and a few do’s and don’ts, the artist has complete agency over how to design their poster. When Paliotta contacted Biggers, the multitalented multihyphenate was ecstatic.
“I’m absolutely in,” Biggers told Paliotta. “Whatever you need from me, let’s make it happen.”
He chose the Lakers game, because he had yet to see LeBron James play live. Since each artist gets premier seats to the game at which their poster is sold, the decision was a no-brainer.
“I’ve seen Jordan play, I’ve seen Kobe play, I’ve seen all the greats,” he says. “LeBron was the last one I hadn’t seen.”
Choosing a poster design was not as easy. Biggers thought about what casual fans and die-hards alike want to see in a poster, and like all of his work, he wanted it to be worth his audience’s time.
“I understand that people work jobs that they hate to make money,” he says. “They’re trading hours for dollars. So whenever they buy a painting, they’re trading hours of their life for my work.”
He also felt confined by the project guidelines. Because the team wanted proceeds to benefit the Mavs Foundation, they restricted the artists from depicting Mavs players in their posters. Thus, the NBA didn’t have to get a cut, and all the proceeds could go to charity.
“The limitations were challenging at first,” Biggers says, “because how do you figure out what a Mavs fan wants if you can’t put a Mav on it?”
People familiar with the artist’s work will see some commonalities to other graphic projects he has created, just like Torres' fans will find similarities between his comic book-inspired art and the poster he designed for the Mavs. Yet the most important element in Biggers’ poster is the depiction of Champ, the Mavs’ horse mascot, flying through the air like so many of Biggers’ childhood heroes.
“It’s all about the art of the game,” he says. “It’s all about the motion.”
Not all of the artists are Mavs fans. Shamsy Roomiani, a maker of fine arts prints and handmade goods, was surprised when Paliotta asked her to be a part of Posterized.
“I am not much of a baller,” she says, laughing. “I’m not much of a sports fan in general, so I was definitely on the fence about it.”
Ultimately, she said yes, because she wanted the challenge of working with a client far outside her wheelhouse. Roomiani is best known for her flora-inspired creations, and she’s partial to the Pacific Northwest. She chose a contest between the Mavs and the Trail Blazers, and filled her poster with red flowers to honor Portland’s status as the City of Roses.
“The game was terrifying,” she says. Roomiani stood before thousands of electric Mavs fans who were chanting things like “DEFENSE” and seemingly obsessed with a 20-year-old Slovenian named Luka. “It was a sensory overload,” she says. “All the bells and whistles were going.”
When I ask Roomiani what she learned, she laughs and says, “Well, I learned that the break after the second quarter is called ‘halftime.’” Then she gets serious, and proud.
“I learned I was able to work with a client I had nothing in common with, and still be true to my visual style. It was a successful partnership.”
Elsewhere in the city, artists like muralist Preston Pannek are creating Mavs-inspired art in the same vein as the Posterized series. While Pannek was not contracted by the Mavs, his fandom inspired him to create a mural with the Mavs’ two stars: Kristaps Porzingis and Doncic.
“People are excited about the Mavs again,” he says. And they have reason to be: After a string of awful years buoyed only by superstar Dirk Nowitzki’s final season, the Mavs are once again in the playoff hunt. Much of the credit is rightfully going to Doncic, a European wunderkind reminding Dallas denizens of Dirk’s early years. “Everywhere I go, I see Luka jerseys,” Pannek says. “I wanted to capture the excitement he’s bringing back to Dallas.”
Biggers is a big Doncic fan, but these days, he gives most of his attention to a different basketball player: His 18-month-old daughter.
“She’ll pick up a ball any time of the day,” he says. “When she goes to events with other children, she’s the floor general. She takes after me.”