Desmond Mason, Former NBA basketball player

Professional Athletes Turned Artists

The 2016 Rio Olympics came to a close today with the US leading with 121 medals, China following with 70 and Britain with 67. There is an informative interactive graph published on the New York Times that indicates all of the winnings. Here at Gnome, we want to celebrate the end of the Olympics by highlighting professional athletes who ended their sports career and began a career in the arts:

Desmond Mason
Desmond Mason, Former NBA basketball player

Desmond Mason, Former NBA basketball player

After a 10-year career as a professional basketball player in the NBA, Desmond Mason is now focused on his passion for creating art. The foundation for Mason’s career in the arts was laid when he attended Oklahoma State University on a basketball scholarship. He majored in studio art where he was able to expand his knowledge of art history and further develop his technical skills in painting and drawing.

In 2000, he was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics with the 17th pick of the NBA draft’s first round. In 2001, he became the first Seattle player in franchise history to win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. During the ten years Mason played in the NBA, he played for Seattle, the Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Sacramento Kings.

Ryan McCann

Ryan McCann, former Quarterback for the UCLA Bruins and Cincinnati Bengals.

Ryan McCann, former Quarterback for the UCLA Bruins and Cincinnati Bengals.

Ryan McCann is a former Quarterback for the UCLA Bruins and Cincinnati Bengals. When his career was cut short due to a shoulder injury he started lighting things on fire. Since his immersion into the art world, Ryan has created a niche for himself as a mixed media pyrographer, using a blowtorch to create the majority of the image. He then combines this with oil and acrylic paints to create an image that twists pop culture into communicating the truth. Often employing satirical text laid across the image, McCann challenges the complacent response to a heavily circulated image by violating its physical continuity (or how it first appeared without noticeable change to its composition). What’s more, the act of burning wood becomes a constructive gesture. In adding layers of color to his images, McCann makes the experience of viewing the work similar to that of reading a graphic novel: colors convey emotional gradients and text becomes the accompaniment.

Aaron Maybin


Aaron Maybin, former American and Canadian football linebacker in the NFL and CFL.

Aaron Maybin is a former American and Canadian football linebacker in the NFL and CFL. He played college football for Penn State University, and received consensus All-American honors. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. His art, photography, and writing deal with many socially relevant themes and issues, drawn from his own personal experiences as a former pro athlete and growing up as a young Black man in America. Aaron uses his platform to advocate for racial and economic equality, arts education, and programing in underprivileged communities across the country. In 2009, Aaron established Project Mayhem to provide aid, both personal and economic, to help underprivileged and at risk youth excel beyond their current conditions. Through his work with Project Mayhem, Aaron has implemented art workshops and curriculums into several Schools in the Baltimore City area that have had budget cuts due to a lack of State Funding.


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