The Basketball Artist
Jazz forward Jeremy Evans is a high-flyer with a hidden talent.
by Abe Schwadron / @abe_squad
The words “NBA” and “artist” don’t usually end up in the same sentence, save for the occasional baller’s misguided foray into hip-hop music. Then again, Jeremy Evans is far from usual. Evans—a 6-9 forward for the Utah Jazz—has spent his summer perfecting his unique pair of childhood passions: basketball and art.
Armed with oils, pastels, acrylics and charcoal, Evans draws and paints celebrities, landscapes and anything else that inspires him. Earl Watson, Francisco Elson and Al Jefferson are among a handful of teammates for whom Evans has sketched likenesses on basketballs, and he points to portraits of Michael Jordan and Halle Berry as sources of pride.
“I started drawing when I was 5 years old,” says Evans, who turns 24 in October. “And my stick figures were a little different from everyone else’s.”
A little different would be putting it modestly. But it’s that humility that helped Evans crack Utah’s rotation late last season, and if the second half of his rookie year is any indication of his hoops potential, he’s a bona fide double threat.
Utah puzzled experts by selecting the unheralded forward out of Western Kentucky with 55th pick of the 2010 Draft. Despite playing fewer than 10 minutes per game last season, Evans proved to be one of the League’s most efficient players. He averaged 3.6 points and 2.0 rebounds over 49 games, and finished with the same 18.90 PER (player efficiency rating) as former Jazz forward Carlos Boozer.
Unlike Booz, Evans instantly became a fan favorite thanks to his high energy, and a YouTube sensation thanks to his dramatic dunking ability. Considering his high motor and jump-out-the-gym hops, the sparkplug role suits him perfectly.
“I try to bring energy and help my teammates, try to get a dunk or block a shot. So that even when I go out of the game, they still have that energy,” says Evans. “That’s just the kind of guy I am.”
Wholesale changes to Utah’s roster in ’10-11 mean Evans will get a shot at regular playing time this season—should there be one. And while he hopes to continue to bring production off the bench, he’s worked this summer to improve his game. Topping Evans’ priority list is upping confidence his jumper. To that end, Evans is in Las Vegas this week playing at the Impact League (his Day 1 teammates included Lakers big man Derrick Caracter).
While short in distance, the trip to Sin City is a far cry from the largely Mormon population of Salt Lake City, Utah, where Evans spends most of his time. He says he’s drawn a series of pictures of Salt Lake’s nationally renowned Latter-day Saints Temple, which he may look to sell should the NBA work stoppage continue.
And while art is a chance for Evans to express his creativity and get away from the game, during the lockout, it can also transport him back to the court. “If I’m painting a basketball scene, it feels like I’m there,” says Evans. “I can see the crowd and the game.”
Thus, for the Utah resident from Western Kentucky via his hometown of Crossett, AR, his life doesn’t imitate art, but rather, lives in it.