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With eyes set on NBA fashion world, Swaggy Picasso is quickly making a name for himself in the custom sneaker game

With eyes set on NBA fashion world, Swaggy Picasso is quickly making a name for himself in the custom sneaker game

Lloyd Ferguson had always been infatuated with sneakers. He had long been interested in painting and abstract art. It wasn't until he was 17-years-old that he realized his biggest passions in life could converge and someday become his livelihood.

It was 2011 and the annual event Sneaker Con had stopped in Washington, D.C. Ferguson, who grew up in Silver Spring, Md., came across a vendor table with customized shoes. An artist was taking popular designs from Nike, Adidas and other brands and turning them into unique and entirely original concepts.

Ferguson approached the artist and found out all he could in terms of the process and the necessary supplies to make similar shoes of his own. A seed had been planted for years later when Ferguson would make his own mark in sneaker art and become who many now know as Swaggy Picasso.

Let's rewind a bit. Before Ferguson knew customized sneakers would be a realistic path, basketball was his biggest passion. He was good at it, enough to play at Wheaton High School and later at Montgomery College. It also became a connection to his mother who passed away when he was just 13-years-old. 

Much of Ferguson's childhood was affected by the deteriorating health of his mom, who had a stroke when he was seven and as a result became paralyzed from the waist down. He often visited her while she recovered in a nursing home and, as her condition worsened, he remained linked to her through his success in the sport.

"I wanted to make my mom happy because that was the last thing she saw me doing when I was a kid. I carried that on for her," Ferguson said. "It's just been hard. I just used the things that make me happy to get me through it."

Playing college basketball was an important achievement for Ferguson, but it was short-lived. He eventually turned to art classes and as he regained those skills, he circled back to that day at Sneaker Con and how shoes were the perfect canvas. 

He started by cleaning and repainting shoes for friends and soon realized executing his own designs could be more fulfilling creatively and more lucrative. Several years in, Ferguson is starting to make a name for himself.

His Instagram account @SwaggyPicasso has allowed him to get exposure for his work. The first one that popped online was a Maryland flag-themed pair of Jordan Taxi 12s. One thing led to another, and now Lakers guard Josh Hart has an order on the way inspired by New Jersey-based artist Kaws.

"Ever since then, I've been going H.A.M. with all the painting and it's been amazing," Ferguson said.

Ferguson says his projects can take anywhere between five hours to two days. They require an extensive preparation process before the painting even begins. He will either sketch the concept on the shoe itself or on paper and go from there.

Ferguson's workshop is in his home in Silver Spring where he lives with the pastor of his church. He tries to do two shoes per day and will often stay up until the early hours of the morning to put in the finishing touches of his designs.

"I wake up every morning as the happiest man alive because I'm using my abilities and then putting it on the things that I love most which is shoes. It's just amazing," he said.

Swaggy Picasso is just starting to blow up and and all of it is overwhelming. He next  hopes to design shoes for Wizards players like John Wall and Bradley Beal and many more NBA stars. 

He is also designing a pair of shoes for NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, set to debut on Thursday night's broadcast of the Wizards' season opener against the Miami Heat. Ferguson will attend the game and plans to wear a unique design himself, a pair of Yeezys inspired by the Batman villain 'The Joker.'

With a love for basketball and sneakers, the NBA is the logical destination for Ferguson's work. He wants to create one-of-a-kind shoes for NBA players for a living and someday open his own shop where sneaker heads can walk in and get their own custom designs.

Ferguson appears well on his way to reaching those goals, but at only 23 is now just enjoying the journey.

"I never knew I would get this far or that people would notice me," he said. "It's still mind-blowing because it's like this is really happening."

A full feature video on Ferguson's life and work is available exclusively in the new MyTeams app. Click here to download it

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Rui Hachimura may have had his best NBA game yet against the Sixers

Rui Hachimura may have had his best NBA game yet against the Sixers

WASHINGTON -- When Wizards coaches and executives rave about Rui Hachimura's potential to be a two-way player, they mean he can play just like he did on Thursday night in the team's 119-113 win over the Sixers.

It was arguably Hachimura's best game yet as an NBA player, a well-rounded performance of 27 points (11-18 FG), seven rebounds and two steals. He didn't set career-highs in any major category, but he was effective on both ends of the floor.

On offense, he lived in the midrange, making the Sixers pay for leaving him open from 15 to 20 feet out. He had 15 points in the second quarter alone.

And on the other end, he did an excellent job playing team defense. He kept an eye on his man while also knowing when to strike on double-teams.

Add it all up and even Hachimura believes it was probably his most complete game so far.

"I think it might be," Hachimura said. "I helped the team defensively and offensively."

There was one play on defense that stood out that didn't show up in the box score. The Wizards employed double-teams on Sixers star Joel Embiid all night and in the second half Hachimura charged in to help with Embiid in the post. He swatted at the ball with perfect timing to bounce it off Embiid's knee and out of bounds for a turnover.

It was the type of play that displayed Hachimura's instincts for team defense. And though it may take time for him to develop into a reliable on-ball defender, like most young players, he can be effective by doing things away from the ball just like that.

Brooks is already seeing rapid defensive improvement from Hachimura, who led the team in deflections (four) and contested shots (12).

"They have two guys that are incredible at shot fakes [Embiid and Al Horford], and we all know that he's had some problems with that early in the year. But the last couple of games, especially tonight, he has stayed down on all those shot fakes. So that's another growing area of his game on a defensive end," Brooks said.

Offensively, though, is where Hachimura is shining most so far. And after scoring 27 against the Sixers, he is now averaging 22 over his last four games while shooting 54.4 percent. His 14.1 points per game average on the season is fifth among rookies and his 5.7 rebounds per game are second. He also has the highest offensive rating (112.9) in his rookie class.

Hachimura has to learn to be more consistent, like most rookies, and especially on defense. But the potential for him to be a two-way player is certainly there, as he showed on Thursday night.

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How the Wizards frustrated Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons enough to get a win

How the Wizards frustrated Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons enough to get a win

WASHINGTON -- Thursday's win over the Sixers may not have been the best defensive performance of this season for the Wizards, but it's up there.

Granted, the bar has not been set very high. They are quite literally on pace to be one of the worst defenses in NBA history.

And some of the numbers at first glance suggest they weren't even that great against Philadelphia in Thursday's win. They still allowed 113 points, the Sixers shot 53.2 percent from the field and made 13-of-28 threes, good for 46.4 percent.

But the Sixers also had 21 turnovers, the Wizards outscored them 40-22 in the second quarter and Philly's bench managed only 18 points. And of the turnovers, 15 came from Joel Embiid (eight) and Ben Simmons (seven), their two best players. 

"We just wanted to show a lot of activity [and] we wanted to be aggressive," head coach Scott Brooks said. "We wanted to throw some frustration into the game by throwing extra hands at their main players, and I thought the guys did a good job."

The extra hands were in the form of all-out double-teams, particularly on Embiid in the post. He leads the NBA in post-ups per game and once he got locked in to one with a defender, the Wizards sent help.

Embiid still ended up with 26 points and 21 rebounds, but the eight turnovers were killer. All in all, Moe Wagner and Ian Mahinmi felt good about how they fared as the ones assigned to him all night.

"The dude had 20 and 20 like it was nothing. But we did a good job," Wagner said.

Both Mahinmi and Wagner credited the double-teams as being of help. They knew they had reinforcements and that gave them extra confidence. They also used their fouls and sent him to the line 14 times.

"The good thing is that it's never really a one-on-one thing with Joel. We get help left and right. My teammates have my back," Mahinmi said.

As for Simmons, Brooks pointed to the job second-year wing Isaac Bonga did on him. Bonga is 6-foot-9 and a scrappy defender and, though Simmons had 17 points and 10 assists, Bonga may have done as well guarding him as any Wizards player has since Simmons entered the league. He had previously been a pain for the Wizards, so much so they once intentionally fouled him enough to set an NBA record for free throw attempts in a quarter.

In a way, injuries may have paved the way for the Wizards' defensive effort on Thursday. Isaiah Thomas was out with a calf injury and he would have been a liability against the Sixers, who have an unusually tall lineup. And Thomas Bryant was out with a foot injury, which gave Mahinmi a rare chance to play in what was his season debut.

Mahinmi's best attributes are on defense and that showed in the Wizards' win.

"I'm not super, super happy with what I did. But I will take that for a first game," he said.

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