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The duality of art and basketball in Dallas

The Mavericks’ franchise resurgence mirrors Dallas’ art scene revival

Art piece on display at Dallas Mavericks’ Art + Basketball City Edition Launch Party (Nov. 2019)

A dope thing is happening in Dallas.

The art scene, reminiscent of the 1990s Deep Ellum days, is burgeoning again.

If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember how much Deep Ellum (an East Dallas neighborhood) was a hotbed of entertainment and music — and street art. Deep Ellum was the zenith of Dallas’ street art scene. There wasn’t a live music show without street art either advertising a particular show or advertising upcoming performances, or both.

As with anything in life, the street art scene experienced the same ebb and flow sports franchises inevitably experience. Deep Ellum, and by extension, street art, faced a decline. In Deep Ellum’s case, crime concerns were ultimately the reason for this decline.

The very streets that helped local acts like the Old 97s and Erykah Badu become national mainstays, the same neighborhood that featured touring acts like Pearl Jam, The Roots, and the Notorious B.I.G ultimately just tired out. A truism that any sports fan knows — as banal as it sometimes sounds — was just as true for the street art scene as it was for any sports franchise experiencing an era of prolonged success: father time is undefeated.

Art in Deep Ellum, Dallas, TX

During Deep Ellum’s heyday, Dallas got a NBA franchise and things didn’t exactly mirror the happening scene over in East Dallas. The Mavericks experienced a modicum of success, but the franchise soon became a symbol of futility for a number of years.

By 1998, while the doom clouds lingered over Deep Ellum and the street art scene, the Mavericks took their first step towards their time for success — his name was Dirk Nowitzki. And, coincidentally, he came from a country that had perhaps the most recognizable street art on perhaps the most recognizable wall.

A section of the Berlin Wall covered in graffiti
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Dirk’s arrival, while not held in much regard both locally or nationally, eventually led the franchise to heights they could have only painted in their minds. The masterpiece was painted in 2011 as the Mavericks earned the franchise’s first NBA championship.

In the years since, and much like the downward trajectory Deep Ellum took, the Mavericks’ decline was evident. As much as Dirk tried, whether working through injuries or taking team-friendly contracts to help secure the franchise’s future, that same truism came calling: father time is undefeated.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

And this is where that dope thing happening in Dallas starts to develop. While the Mavericks were ambling towards a period of inadequacy, the street art scene in Dallas — and particularly in East Dallas and Deep Ellum — was burgeoning.

But this time, Dallas’ art and basketball storyline went from being a meandering opposite storyline to converge into a parallel trajectory. The street art scene was making a strong comeback and the Mavericks dipped into the paint can of history that served them well two decades ago: his name is Luka Doncic, and he was born in Ljubljana, a town in Slovenia that has a fair amount of street art adorning buildings.

Art on a building in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

If you look around Deep Ellum today, you’ll see that the street art comeback is in full swing. Street art in East Dallas is having itself a moment. Conversely, if you look around the NBA’s standings and stats, you’ll see that the Mavericks’ franchise bounce back — led by a 20-year-old Luka Doncic — is in full swing, too.

The Mavericks have been aware of the resurgence of Dallas’ famed street art scene for some time now. A few years ago, the front office approached Tex Moton, a Dallas native and local artist who has been involved in Dallas’ art scene dating back to 1995, to see if he’d be interested in helping to design a City Edition jersey.

“Reaching out to me with my history of being a graffiti artist, a street artist, that was the direction we wanted to take it”, Moton recently told Forbes Sports. Moton went on to talk about how during the initial brainstorming session, the first thoughts were about the art in Deep Ellum. “That was kind of the atmosphere we were going for.”

The final product was unveiled this month, and reactions have varied. To kick off the 2019 City Edition jersey, the Mavericks hosted an Art + Basketball launch party a few hours before the Mavericks’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Victory Plaza outside the American Airlines Center was packed full of fans of basketball and art (and of course, fans of both).


Watching older Mavericks fans walking around admiring the various artist booths while also watching young Mavericks fans in the same space was surreal in a sense.

Deep Ellum (and street art) is back and flourishing thanks to young artists and collaborators like the By Way of Dallas brand. At the same time, the Mavericks are experiencing a revival of high-caliber basketball thanks to the contributions of young superstars in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

The Mavericks’ 2019 City Edition jersey, while panned by many, has a rich history behind it. And while the aesthetics may appear to some to be less than appealing, you have to appreciate the art and basketball duality it represents for Dallas.

As the art in Dallas plans on continuing to build on its rich history, this young Mavericks team is intent on mirroring that same plan.

A dope thing is happening in Dallas. And what a picture it promises to paint.