In honor of this weekend’s NBA All-Star festivities, this story appears in SLAM Presents All-Star Vol 2: The Land. shop now
When Daniel Arsham was told that he would become the creative director of the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was such a historic move that even he wouldn’t be able to tell you that he dreamed of it. The opportunity had never existed until he and the Cavs made it one.
The genre-bending artist, who is most well known in the world of art galleries and museum exhibits, and has produced collaborations with Porsche, Dior and KITH, to name a few, became the first creative director in franchise history in the fall of 2020 .
Arsham was most recently contracted by recording artist Gunna to design the album cover for his latest project, Drip Season 4, which he brought to life via a casting of the College Park native’s face adorned with an iced-out chain and black angular sunglasses and sky -blue diamonds jutting out of the sculpture’s shoulders, forehead and face.
Drippy 💧 https://t.co/Uy8MIeHzPQ
— Daniel Arsham (@DanielArsham) January 5, 2022
Arsham’s love and admiration for hoops is reflected in some of his most well-received pieces, including Moving Basketball, which was featured as the centerpiece of the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse Public Art Collection, launched by the family of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
After his installation at the arena, Arsham says numerous conversations with director of brand strategy Grant Gilbert is what led to the brand-new role, placing the contemporary artist in command of the organization’s visual identity.
“I mean, frankly, I sort of just kept telling [Grant], like, you guys need to change this, you need to change that. The jerseys this season are a little bit lacking. You know, court designs. I had comments about a lot of different things, more so just as a fan of the team,” Arsham tells SLAM.
“And at some point, he sort of jokingly said, Why don’t you work for us and, like, fix it? Arsham says with a laugh.
The 41-year-old fine artist grew up watching the navy blue and orange Cavalier uniforms jet up and down the court. Arsham, his father and grandfather were all born in The Land. His personal history with the city and the team is more than rich, it’s historic, making this year’s All-Star Weekend even more special.
When conversations surrounding the organization’s plans for the weekend began, Arsham was told that teams are typically given the option between handing the responsibility off to the League or designing the logo themselves. As soon as he heard the latter, Arsham this would be something that would definitely be completed “in-house.”
Alongside the Cavs’ design team, Arsham led the creative direction for this year’s All-Star logo, which features the team’s wine and gold coloring. Most noticeable is the fifth tip of the star, which morphs into Terminal Tower, the landmark skyscraper of downtown Cleveland.
“The game itself is not really about the team, it’s more about the city. And in some ways, I think that’s also my job—really not only to highlight the Cavs themselves, but it’s such a team that’s ingrained within the city,” Arsham says.
A city whose working-class history often overshadows its modern evolution, Cleveland has seen quite the revitalization on the court, thanks to the continued growth of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Now it’s Arsham’s turn to convert the grind, the wins and the growth into the next set of ground-breaking pieces.
From collaborations with StockX, pop-up team shops and art exhibits to highlighting local designers and artists, Arsham and the city of Cleveland will be putting on a show throughout All-Star Weekend.
“Cleveland, it’s a midsize city,” says Arsham. “So, for it to be able to host an event of that scale, and have all those people in town and everything, it’s obviously a moment for us to show what we’ve got.”
SLAM Presents All-Star Vol 2: The Land is available now!
Photos courtesy of Daniel Arsham.