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Art, the NBA and Caris LeVert (among others)

Brooklyn Nets Media Day Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Whenever a segment of American life gains wealth, art has a special place, as a pursuit, as an investment, as a way of showing you’ve arrived. The NBA, with its multi-million salaries, is no exception.

With their salaries rising and their experiences educating in the ways of the world, NBA players have begun acquiring art of all kinds, displaying it and often collecting it.

The New York Times reported last weekend on how one Nets player has joined the art world. Caris LeVert of Pickerington, Ohio and Brooklyn, New York —as well as a graduate of the University of Michigan, has begun his education.

Mike Vorkunov writes of how it works...

Caris LeVert arrived at a mostly empty West Side art gallery for a private showing late last October. William Villalongo, an artist, walked around with him that evening, describing his dozen or so works hanging on the walls. LeVert, a second-year Nets guard, is a neophyte in the art world. His father, Darryl, had been a graphic designer and drawn family portraits, but LeVert was in unfamiliar territory.

So far, Vorkunov writes, art is a hobby for LeVert. He may be immersing himself in the art world, but he hasn’t taken the big leap in buying.

Several NBA stars are away ahead of him. Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill are collectors, but apparently, the most impressive collection belongs to Elliot Perry, a journeyman NBA player who spent a year and a half with the New Jersey Nets in the late 1990’s.

“This is a journey,” said Perry, who is now a limited partner and executive with the Grizzlies. “Even though you have the resources, that doesn’t mean anything. You still want to take your time. You want to buy the right pieces. You’re going to make some mistakes, but that’s part of the journey.”

And a Brooklyn artist and collector, Grady St. Fleur, is many players’ connection. St. Fleur hung around the Rucker Park and West Fourth Street basketball courts in Manhattan, meeting people who eventually became player agents, Vorkunov writes. His first big client, another Net, Deron Williams. Dahntay Jones, who had short stint with Brooklyn, is another.

As he led LeVert through a gallery, the artist Villalongo remarked. “There’s not too much difference between artists and athletes,” Villalongo said. “It’s based on skill.”

And money.