A mural of Larry Bird surfaced on the side of a building near downtown Indianapolis this week, a fitting tribute to perhaps the best basketball player ever to come out of Indiana.
There was just one problem: Bird didn’t like the mural.
Bird spotted the mural — which featured him in a blue Indiana State jersey with tattoos across his arms, chest and face — in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis. The 62-year-old is now trying to get it changed, and had his team reach out to the artist to do so.
“Larry's position is he has elevated himself from where he began to where he is now through a lot of hard work. He has developed a brand that is marketable and he needs to protect that brand,” Bird’s attorney Gary Sallee said, via the Indianapolis Star. “The mural, as originally painted, was a departure from that brand.”
The mural was painted by graffiti and street artist Jules Muck, per the report, who was simply tasked with painting something on the side of the building. She said that many people reached out suggesting she painted Bird, and then had the cover of a Sports Illustrated from 1977 with Bird on it sent to her — which is what sealed the deal.
Bird didn’t ask for it to come down entirely, and is reportedly willing to compromise. Sallee told the Indianapolis Star he expects most of the tattoos will be removed from the mural, though insisted that Bird doesn’t have an issue with body ink.
"All of his friends and 98 percent of his players are tattooed,” Sallee said, via the Indianapolis Star. “He doesn't have any problem with tattoos. He just doesn’t want to be seen as a tattooed guy.”
Muck said that she does murals and paintings of people all the time, but doesn’t like to do an exact copy of a photograph. She often adds or tweaks aspects of her work to avoid totally copying the original photo, which is what she did with the Bird mural.
"It would be very scary if I wasn’t allowed to paint people, because I paint people constantly," Muck said, via the Indianapolis Star. "There have been times when I’ve done exact duplicates of photographs where I reached out to photographers and they’re cool with it. Usually, it’s just a photographer I have to ask, because it’s using an exact replica of their image."
As for what exactly will change, Muck wasn’t entirely sure. She’s currently working to come to an agreement with Bird and his team.
"We'll see," Muck said, via the Indianapolis Star. "It’s going to be a matter of how much we have to do to change it."
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