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Me, the NBA and the New York Times - Interview with Davide Barco

NSS - New Sport Side

Me, the NBA and the New York Times - Interview with Davide Barco NSS - New Sport Side

I've meet Davide Barco a few years ago, when he illustrated the previous life of this column. Now he's one of the most famous sport illustrators in the world, in particular of American sport. I talked with him about his work, illustrating the NBA and publishing on the New York Times

1. What was born before: you passion for basketball or for illustration? 

I always had a passion for drawing, since I was very young. My favourite hero was Spider-Man, but around 4-5 years old I was not able to draw a human proportion, so I used to stress my father to let him design the silhouette of a man for me so I could lose hours to draw the classic pattern of a cobweb. Then when I was six my first coach appeared in class asking anyone who wants to try to play any sport other than football. Now at 29 years old I have absolutely no desire to stop playing. The original plan was to become a champion of the NBA. I did not succeed, then I kept my visceral passion for the sport in the illustration. This alternative has become reality only a little more than two years ago.
2. What was your first contact with the NBA illustration in a working way?

The first one was with Francesco Poroli, the art director of NBA Official Magazine. That helped me to realize the dream of ending up in the magazine I read as a kid. It was a pair of portraits / illustrations of two crazy players: Metta World Peace and Lamar Odom. They were in the issue devoted to NY, and for me as a Knicks fans it was a dream.

3. I remember it well, it was pretty cool. From there then? How the hell did you come to the New York Times and ESPN?

For ESPN: I harassed them by email, but I was never... never responded. Seven months after the release of the magazine, the art director teld me "do you wanna do something for us? Something similar to the things that you sent by mail". I was a bit 'panicked: I don't remember what I ate yesterday, I can't remember what I sent you by email seven months before (laughs). Fortunately I never throw the mails away, and from there I made my first job on the NHL. I've been working with the New York Times for a little more than four months now, and I’ve already reached 4 collaborations with them (for me it's a lot). I arrived to write the art director to whom I had contact, "I’m below, may I come in the office?”.
He could have reported me, he did not.

4. What's the first thing you look at, as an illustrator, in an NBA player? Inside and outside the field.

In a word: "style". In general, each player mixes his style on the pitch, even if the elements are always the same: cuffs, clamps, sleeves, tattoos. There are not so many elements, but just like songs, always made by the same notes, each player gets his own identity through their choice of accessories. No coincidence that in the last playoffs Lebron decided to give up the band because it differed too much from his teammates.

5. Is it really difficult to design a sneaker?

If you have a strong passion, no. I don't have it and I hate drawing sneakers (laughs). I have a friend who's super passionate, and when I show him my work he's always very critic.

6. What about jersey instead? I imagine you're an enthusiast. I wanted your opinion on the most beautiful to illustrate - excluding NY, obviously.

Excluding NY? It's not fair! (Laughs). Then the jerseys are like candies: I ​​like them a lot, but then it hurts, especially to my wallet. Let me think about it 20 seconds, then:
1. Bulls (guess the number?). It is a timeless jersey, the red number with black of course.
2. A classic Boston with a beautiful 33 white on green, the one with the straps tight.
3. Phoenix 1992.
Uh, special mention for the Christmas game jersey from adidas, do not pay me to say it, but this year they have done a great job.


7. Some flash questions:
Favourite sports illustrator?
Favourite sports magazine?
Favourite “NBA style” element?
All time favourite game?
Extra-parquet event you remember the most?

I like a lot the work of Tyson BeckBut, but if we speak of pencil and paper I will say Riccardo Guasco. For the magazine I go easy with NBA Official Magazine. As a design element I like the shooting sleeve, but it is a relationship of love and hate. Favorite game: All Star Game 2002. Moment extra-parquet certainly the first retirement of Jordan. I burst into tears, to console me my father told me something like "you're lucky, your myth is at least still alive, mine, Fabrizio De Andrè, is gone forever." I do not remember what I said, but I know that the reaction was like "what are we making of basketball now if there is not Jordan?" Now I can say I passed that time, also thanks to Steph Curry.