Mamba Week

KOBE BRYANT illustrated by Erik Pingol

Did this for the Mamba Week. I will repost here an article I wrote before.

This story is personal.

I was a Shaq fan. My earliest NBA memory was Shaq’s Magic versus MJ’s Bulls. When Shaq moved from Orlando to LA, I “moved” too. It was great. I also liked the Lakers. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy… and the amazing franchise. And then there was Kobe Bryant.

The young Kobe Bryant was something. You gotta give him credit for his heart. His courage. A brave young man. But man, I hated him. There were times he was throwing airballs. There were times he wasn’t passing and making selfish decisions. I loved Eddie Jones. I loved Nick Van Exel. But Kobe wasn’t passing, he had to drive and dunk it on someone else because he had to be a legend NOW!

Jones, Van Exel, Campbell were traded, that was a bit sad. The Lakers had a rebuild. Finally they went to the finals and won three championships. Kobe was a lot better a player now. He was dunking on everyone’s head. He was tough. His energy went through the roof. Though I believed, Shaq was the key, you can not deny Kobe of his contribution—he killed it when Shaq was out. The young Kobe was ripe and dunked it hard when the need rose. And they won it in fashion, 3 shiny rings.

And then there were some issues and Shaq left for Miami. I was broken, I hated that LA “sided” with Kobe, Shaq had to leave. But I remained a Laker fan. Though I cheered Shaq for his success with DWade, I remained a Laker fan not cheering for Kobe.

Years came by, frustrations, losses and all, I started drifting away from NBA. I had almost forgotten my love for basketball, and focused on being an artist. Soon after, the rise of Kobe Bryant once again. He was still dunking on people. He’s back. He never lost his heart. I just couldn’t deny him. He was bleeding himself dry to win for my Lakers. His Lakers.

Kobe lost to the Celtics—and as a Laker, losing to Celtics is crazy big deal. Be it the finals or a regular season game, no, you don’t fall to the Celtics! But he did. Yet, this guy didn’t stop. He took Paul Pierce’s image as fuel to his inner fire.

Next year he was dunking again. His jumpers are sharper. You can see how he trained his body to finally cope up with his spirit. Kobe was taking his throne without Shaq. And he did! He won the finals and dunked on anyone in front of him—hi, Dwight. The next year he faced the Celtics again and got back what he lost. What a time to be a Laker fan!

Calmer time followed. Lebron James’s rise to power took the spotlight. Injuries followed. Kobe wasn’t the young number 8 anymore. He was the number 24 with torn achilles tendon. He made the free throws and walked away. The next seasons, he returned. He was different. He was throwing airballs again and the media had a circus. Criticized. To some he was disrespected. Kevin Durant didn’t like how the media treated him. Then KB announced his retirement—his last season—he said had nothing left to give.

His last season was a tour. But his LAST GAME against the rival Utah Jazz… man… was the best last game a legendary baller, or any athlete, could ever have—60 points and a W—in a jaw-dropping fashion. He left the court with a big smile. His body could have gotten older, but his spirit was as young as that rookie who dunked on people no matter what.

Until one morning, I woke up with the saddest news of the decade.

When Kobe died, I couldn’t take it. All of us, couldn’t believe it. But that’s just life, and maybe, that’s just what death is too. But Kobe Bryant, he and his winning shots, he and his devastating dunks, it would echo for the whole time he represented. He just wouldn’t let anyone outshine him on his watch. He just wouldn’t let anyone hold him down for long. His Mamba Mentality created a generation of winners. His life was truly a legendary story.

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The first images of Kobe in purple uniform are available for digital download for a very low price on my shop at etsy. While the following Kobe digital arts will be available upon request.

Thanks

Michael Jordan

A portrait of the GOAT Michael Jordan by Erik Pingol

An art professor once told me that a portrait is not just some photograph or illustration of someone’s face. It should have the story or the character or memory that describes who the subject is. This, for me, is Michael Jordan. The hard teammate. The ultra-competitive. The proud monarch. The undefeated champion.

Truth be told, I was never a fan of MJ. I never collected his cards when I was young. I didn’t really root that much for his games, in fact I wanted my Lakers to defeat him. But my beloved ’90s era was the decade of his greatness, and it was harder not to be in awe of this certain genius.

This is the last Bulls portrait in my planned collection, and definitely one of my favorites.

Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen illustrated by Erik Pingol

“Considered one of the greatest small forwards of all time, Pippen was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team eight consecutive times and the All-NBA First Team three times. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star and was the NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1994. He was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History during the 1996–97 season, and is one of four players to have his jersey retired by the Chicago Bulls” from Wiki.

Yup I got lazy there trying to write something about Scottie. Well, this site is about my artworks, not athlete profiles after all. I do like Scottie Pippen in the Bulls’ run during the ’90s but I just didn’t have the words to say.

Anyway, as a journal entry, I remember waking up early in the morning and sketching this. In a few hours I finished it and got to finish more on the same day. I’m getting the hang of hatching. I think I finished 5 player portraits in one day.

Next: MJ

Harper 9

Ron Harper was one of the herd that I liked—back in the 2nd Bulls’ era in the ’90s. Together of course with MJ, Pip, and Kukoc and Rodman—Harper was a very dependable role-player. But of course I was just too young to remember his details and I didn’t collect his Fleer and Topps back then. So I took a piece of Wikipedia about him:

“Harper signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Bulls, who were reloading following the first retirement of Michael Jordan. Harper found his niche with the Bulls upon Jordan’s return, eventually becoming a fan favorite by reinventing himself as a big perimeter defender, ball handler, and mid-range scorer.”

Yes. True that. And when the Bulls were over, He got to join the Lakers—my true team—and won 2 more rings. Lucky and great guy!

Ron Harper. I did this portrait because very few did. Don’t forget this guy! He’s great!

Right now, I’m just working with portraits and portraits and more portraits, but in the future I’ll do some court action for each of these guys (that I portrait). Be sure to here for it, guys!

Please follow my Instagram and Twitter which is @erikpingol both of them. And my Facebook pages Art of Erik Pingol and Sports Illustrator. There are widgets below. Thanks, as always.

The Spider of Split

Toni Kukoc was known as the Spider of Split—that is Split—in Croatia. He had been one if not the most celebrated Croatian player of his time. He was a favorite Bull of mine back in their Championship years in the ’90s, that’s why I was fairly disappointed that The Last Dance (Netflix documentary) paid very less attention in him than he deserved.

A complete player: perimeter shots, 3-pointers, defense, passing skills and a very quick tall guy with a lot of tricks.

Toni Kukoc —one of the 2nd 3-peat Bull’s main guns

At this point I was getting pretty used to my hatching. Expect more coming!

The Worm

Dennis Rodman of the ’90s Chicago Bulls by Erik Pingol

Dennis Rodman was a wonder under the rim. He wasn’t known for scoring but what he’s known for was worth more—his defense and rebounds. Let MJ and Pip win the scoring battle, but trust The Worm to take care of the missed shots.

Here’s the ’90s Bulls’ Dennis ‘The Worm’ Rodman in black and white, my first entry in my NBA Portraits: The ’90s.

Kobe v MJ

Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan by Erik Pingol

After my digital watercolor exploration on the previous Shaq-Kobe piece, I got a little closer to the effect that I wanted with this one. I just need the right brush. But this is a bit close.

I just love drawing basketball shoes 😍

NBA X Slam Dunk

What if Slam Dunk (anime) ballers got drafted in NBA? What teams suit them best? I certainly can’t say which one is the best team for each player but I could give my own fantasy draft, for sure.

In my Instagram account some say Sakuragi should go to the Bulls, Fujima to the Celtics, etc. Yes, of course, Shohoku guys would fit nicely in the Bulls uniform, Shoyo guys should bleed green with the Celtics jersey and Kainan to the gold and purple Lakers—but we have (almost) already seen that. Those NBA teams were clearly the inspiration of author Takehiko Inoue in designing the school varsity uniforms. So I wanted something fresh. Something new to my eye.

I hope I could make my favorite mangaka Mr. Takehiko Inoue proud. Or at least, not disappointed.

Also, you guys can comment down below which team you want the characters to play. Who knows, if I get the extra time, I could do those too. Your (likes and) share would be much appreciated.

I figured Sakuragi would be fantastic under Coach Popovich’s guidance
Miyagi is like my Penny Hardaway’s resurrection
Rukawa could do well in the Madison Square Garden
Mitsui is one of my top guys in the series. So he goes to the Lakers, no question 😂
Houston would love Akagi’s dominance in the paint
Rukawa goes to New York, Sendoh goes to Indiana. Interesting!
I don’t know. I just think this uniform fits “Fukusuke” well
Fujima goes to training under Steve Nash, and dons the Mavs jersey
Miami wanted a “tall” guy with range, Hanagata was just at the right time. Had to improve his eye glasses though, into something more sporty but won’t change his looks.
Two things: I wanted to represent Canada in this collection and I just love that classic Raptors jersey. Just tossed Kiyota in the mix 😂
Maki goes to the Cavs. I was actually surprised the wine and gold looked great on him. So I let him have a pair of LeBrons.

Unfortunately, even in fantasy I didn’t think Kogure could make it in the NBA. Sorry, Megane-kun fans. Okay, I’m not serious. This is just my little joke. How about Kogure discovered his real greatness was in baseball all along? And he made it in the Major League with the Dodgers! Not bad, Megane-kun, not bad.

Kogure with the Dodgers! FTW!

Also, Coach Popovich thought Sakuragi’s red hair gives away his stealth defense/blocks from behind. He suggested a more toned down color. Well really, the Spurs owner thought it violates the SAS colors, so here we go.

Sakuragi in his alternate hair color

Guys, I had a lot of fun doing this. I hope you do, too. Please, do message me what NBA teams would you like to see them in. It would be a nice discussion. Also please share (and like) if it’s not much. My Instagram is erikpingol and my Facebook page is Art of Erik Pingol. See you around.

MJ’s Flight

Michael Jordan’s legendary slam illustrated by Erik Pingol

I couldn’t remember now how much hours I’ve spent drawing the crowd. I love giving details to my artworks, but somehow this particular one made me say I’m going to rest from drawing spectators for a while. Still, I loved it.

The photo reference I used in this illustration was shot by Nathaniel S. Butler. I’ve seen many of his NBA shots, they are as legendary as their subjects. God bless his greatness.