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AKRON, Ohio — A vandal has defaced a large "Space Jam" inspired LeBron James mural in his hometown.
Early Monday, a red clown nose was spray painted on James' face, along with the words "LA FLOP," a reference to James' sometimes dramatic reactions to fouls on the court.
With his new movie "Space Jam: A New Legacy" hitting theaters and HBO Max, artist Chardae Slater said she wanted to not only celebrate his basketball legacy but also have a little fun and mix in the Looney Tunes characters from the movie.
The mural is located not far from his alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and the I Promise School he helped found for at-risk Akron school children.
The now-damaged mural stands as a symbol of the love/hate relationship the NBA star has in his hometown. He is revered by many, but some Northeast Ohioans still hold grudges over his leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami, only to return and then leave again for the Lakers.
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The new incarnation of the "Space Jam" movie makes reference to these career moves as the film's villain Don Cheadle talks about James breaking the heart of Cleveland — not once but twice.
But it was a love of James and his contributions to Akron and its school kids that led on Slater to paint the mural in the first place. She said she created the mural because there wasn't one for him already in the city.
Slater said things like this vandalism are born in hate and she's trying to stay "positive."
Akron Police have been alerted to the vandalism and Slater said she's hopeful businesses near the mural will be willing to share any security camera footage they may have that captured the culprit or culprits.
She started work in early June on the colorful mural. She first created the mural on paper then set up a grid on the side of the building. She then painstakingly painted each block of the grid, one at a time.
It was an arduous task, and she often battled the heat and dodged raindrops, sometimes even working until 2 a.m.
It didn't take long for folks and fans — even James himself — to take notice.
Slater said James' mom, Gloria, visited the mural, and the social media accounts for James' camp shared it.
James' representatives did not return a request for comment Monday about the recent vandalism.
Because the vandal used spray paint, it cannot be removed and will need to be painted over, she said. She estimated it might take up to two weeks to fix the mural.
"It's fixable," she said. "It's just, 'oh my God.' I'm trying to keep positive."
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: LeBron James 'Space Jam' mural vandalized in NBA star's hometown Akron