About two miles from downtown Denver, the yellows, oranges and reds of a spray-painted mural fill the cracked, gray cement wall of a building that houses a temporary employment agency. The mural rises about 20 feet and depicts an expressionless Nikola Jokic next to a much more emotive Jamal Murray, his eyes narrowed and arms extended as though he is wielding a bow and arrow.
Thomas Evans, a 38-year-old artist, finished the mural of the two Denver Nuggets stars recently as the team prepared to begin the N.B.A. finals. On Thursday afternoon, hours before Game 1 of the championship series against the Miami Heat, Damien Lucero was blaring his song “It’s Nuthin” while recording a rap music video in front of the mural. Lucero, 21, goes by Dame$, pronounced “Dames” (not to be confused with Dame D.O.L.L.A., the rap name of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard). He said the mural inspired him and some collaborators to write the song as a tribute to Jokic.
He rattled off some of his favorite lines:
“Clean sweep, yeah, it’s all me.
Had to smoke him out like I puff trees.
Four mo’ dubs then we pop rings.
Triple dub, ain’t no joke, he the new king.”
The old king — at least to those who want to describe him that way — is LeBron James, whose Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals. James is the biggest star in the N.B.A., with four championship rings, piles of endorsement deals and a constant presence on social media and television. Jokic has none of that.