After a late morning workout, Los Angeles Lakers guard Brandon Ingram headed out to Hollywood in his black sweatshirt, red sweatpants and a handful of friends.
But, this wasn’t Hollywood, as most people know it. There was no Walk of Fame, no high-end fashion stores, no TMZ bus tour strolling by.
At the corner of North Western Avenue and Fernwood, across from an abandoned parking lot, lies Covenant House California, a homeless youth shelter that has been around for over 25 years, opening it’s doors and providing a safe environment to thousands of kids annually.
It was a special day for ‘The Cov,’ as President and CEO of Covenant House California, Brian Bedrossian calls it. Not only was the former Lakers rookie making an appearance to introduce the new mural that was being donated to the youth shelter, but he was also hanging around to play on the newly renovated basketball court and lounge space, courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation and Delta Air Lines.
“I think it’s kind of surreal, just to have somebody of his stature on campus for them to be so close and be a part of something like this. My guess is that it’s a once in a life-time experience for these young people,” Bedrossian said.
The 8′ x 22′ mural, titled “Never Stop Dreaming,” features an arms-wide open Ingram in his Lakers jersey, holding a basketball with his four Kinston high school championships. Crafted by iconic street artist Jonas Never, with the help of 150 Lakers fans, the billboard was created as part of Delta’s Beyond The Court Program, helping to celebrate players passions off the court and find new ways to connect with fans.
And of course, Ingram had his input.
“He (Ingram) wanted the Laker emblem to be front and center, the pride in his team, the pride of his new city, and it tied in well with the whole Delta Dream Up Los Angeles. He wanted to make sure his hometown was represented,” Never explained. “He was so proud of winning four straight high school championships in Kinston, so he put the K on his basketball to represent his high school, the banners for championships.”
“I had a few of the ideas in it,” Ingram smiled. “I actually painted a few of the things up there also, along with 150 fans of the fans and Jonas. Overall Jonas helped me out with a lot of it, and he did a very good job painting it.”
Never admits it was a little more “nerve-wracking” when he had Ingram “standing two feet away from him,” so he wanted to make sure he got his important features right, “the hair and the tattoos.”
“His hair was obviously a big part of him, had to make sure the hair was right,” Never said. “His dad wanted to make sure his tattoos were right. It was really cool hearing what made him, him, and his background, he was really proud of his family.”
And don’t forget the eyes.
“His eyes always have that unique look, so I wanted to make sure I captured them well. When he smiles with his eyes, it’s kinda cool, so I wanted to make sure that was in there.”
But the event was less about the mural, and more about the power it could provide as inspiration to these young kids.
“Like the mural says, never stop dreaming,” Bedrossian said. “We believe that if a young person can get someone that believes in them and has a relationship that’s loving and caring, that’s going to be the catalyst for them pursuing their dreams. And so, we hope that that will be their message from their time here, that they know because someone believes in them, they can never stop dreaming and achieve any dream they’ve had.”
For Ingram, it’s just as much inspiration for himself, as he hopes it will be for those kids, knowing that he, too, had a dream coming from Kinston, North Carolina.
“It’s inspiration for myself as I know it’s inspiration for those guys coming in here reading that mural and saying never stop dreaming,” Ingram continued. “I think that sets the tone they always keep that in the back of their head, whatever they want to do in life, they can go do it and reach new heights, each and everyday,” Ingram said. “I think coming from my home town, having aspirations that I’ve had over the years, it’s definitely going to keep me hungry, keep me humble.”
“This is kind of why I started doing murals in the first place,” Never said. “I wanted people to interact with it and either get inspired by it or get touched by it and this really accomplishes all of those things and I couldn’t have asked for a better place for it to end up.”
Originally on display at the Venice boardwalk, the mural then found its new home at The Covenant House, and what used to be a simple wall with a bench in front of it, turned into a mural of inspiration.
“Who would have thought that the mural would fit perfectly,” Never said about this mural was fit for a Venice wall and yet it fit this one spot on their basketball court perfectly. Him dreaming in North Carolina about making the NBA, and now this, everything tied together perfectly.”