Ever since he was a kid, charcoal artist Christian Oliver Talampas has been a huge fan of sports legend Michael Jordan, touted as the “greatest basketball player of all time” by the National Basketball Association. Christian first saw His Airness on TV when he was eight and has looked up to Jordan since.
Unlike other kids who dreamed of specific careers to pursue, all Christian wanted was to “be like Mike.” He admired the athlete’s laser-like focus, his never-quit attitude, his hard work and persistence. His goal was to one day get noticed by his idol, whose values he has learned to admire.
But Christian is actually an artist. Since he lost his work as a delivery driver during the first year of the pandemic, the father of four began painting in charcoal to augment the family income. People bought his artworks for a few hundred bucks each. But he knew that if he really wants to succeed, he should do something different—in other words, a leap of faith.
With the goal of getting the basketball legend’s attention, Christian thought of creating a charcoal painting of Jordan’s iconic “Last Shot,” an image shot by NBA photographer Fernando Medina in 1998. The picture of MJ doing that championship-winning clutch against Utah Jazz was ranked number one in Sports Illustrated’s 100 Greatest Sports Photos of All Time.
In an Instagram video Christian posted in July 2021, he said it took him a total of 620 hours or 72 days to finish the MJ artwork. He used charcoal, pencil and colored pencil. In the video, the artist appealed to netizens to connect him with the retired hardcourt star so he could show Jordan what he painstakingly created. He ended his caption with a quote from the basketball titan himself: “I can accept failure but I can’t accept not trying.”
In an interview for Julius Babao’s YouTube Channel, Christian said the charcoal painting is not only an MJ artwork but is also a vivid representation of his own life. Looking at the painting closely would reveal that some of the faces in the crowd are actually Christian’s loved ones, and people who have helped his artistic career. He treats the opportunity—getting his idol’s attention—as his last shot at making it in the art scene. “Hindi ako sigurado kung papasok o hindi. Pero I took the chance,” he told Babao.
How the painting reached Jordan
Aside from posting videos on IG and TikTok, Christian even messaged specific people who could possibly help him send the artwork to MJ. But he didn’t get any replies.
Until one day, he got a message from American OG collector Bryan Apodaca. The guy was inquiring if Christian was selling a print of his “Last Shot” charcoal painting. Finding out that Christian wanted to give Jordan a copy of his artwork, Bryan offered to help.
Christian admitted he was doubtful at first, aware of the proliferation of online scammers. But when Bryan showed him a screengrab of a conversation with Nike designer Mike Smith, a friend of MJ, the Filipino artist was convinced the guy could indeed be the missing link to the NBA legend.
Christian sent the artwork to Bryan in October 2021. He recalls staying up till the wee hours awaiting updates. If he didn’t get any feedback after MJ receives it, he thought, he will stop expecting and move on. But one morning, as he was about to sleep, a message came in from Bryan saying Jordan liked the artwork and “wants to do something a little bit beyond.”
Christian was understandably ecstatic. “Lalo akong hindi nakatulog kakahula kung ano ang ipapadala [ni MJ],” the artist told Julius.
A second message from Bryan came January 16, showing a photo of the charcoal painting bearing MJ’s autograph. Could it be the legend’s real signature? It looked too perfect, he thought, too good to be true. And then Bryan sent a photo of MJ actually signing the art, and Christian was not able to contain his emotions, bursting into tears right then and there.
Secret Fresh gallery owner Bigboy Cheng told GMA News that the signature is more precious than most people think, considering how MJ very rarely gives autographs these days. A pair of sneakers with his signature could fetch about 15,000 USD (or about P767,000). Cheng told Esquire the appraised value of the autographed artwork would be at least P40 million. But to Christian, the work is now “priceless,” and he has no plans to sell.
“Ang gift na ibinigay sa akin ni Michael Jordan is yung confidence,” the artist told Julius. The painting and MJ’s gesture will forever remind him to always do what it takes to get what he wants, to fight for his dreams.
“Huwag kayong titigil na maniwala sa sarili,” he advises aspiring artists like him. “Kahit feeling nyo wala ng naniniwala, i-push nyo basta alam nyong positive ang kalalabasan at wala kayong tatapakan na tao.”