Kadir Nelson (B.F.A. Illustration ’96) has painted the images for a new set of postage stamps honoring famed National Basketball Association (NBA) player Wilt Chamberlain.
Approximately 50 million Forever stamps with Chamberlain’s image will be printed, making him the first player from the NBA to be honored with a postage stamp. Nelson, whose bold, expressionistic paintings often focus on African-American figures, created two images for the stamps: one depicting Chamberlain in his early days playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, and the other showing him later in his career, when he played with the Los Angeles Lakers. To emphasize Chamberlain’s commanding 7-foot-1 frame, the stamps are almost two inches long, almost one-third longer than a typical stamp.
Nelson’s previous commissions from the United States Postal Service have included painting images for stamps honoring baseball players from the Negro Leagues and the pioneering tennis champion Althea Gibson. According to The New York Times article, Nelson’s interest in baseball lore came about when he painted players from the Negro Leagues while attending Pratt.
Nelson’s work includes concept artwork for feature films including Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, as well as images for album covers and children’s books. His paintings are in the collections of the United States House of Representatives, the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2013, his painting of Nelson Mandela was featured on the cover of the December 16 issue of The New Yorker.
A story about Nelson and the creation of the stamps appeared in The New York Times on December 4. The article can be found here.