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L.A. artist paints tribute to ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott

In L.A., a mural pays tribute to ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott after his death from cancer

Stuart Scott was born in Chicago, bled "Carolina blue," and gained national acclaim by dropping exuberant catchphrases from inside a TV studio in Bristol, Conn.

Over two decades, his urban vernacular and cooler-than-the-other-side-of-the-pillow style amassed fans across America — including Los Angeles, where, this week, a large mural in his honor popped up near Los Angeles International Airport.

With a turquoise halo around his head and an ESPN microphone in his hand, a calm, focused Scott looks out at the city from above a sports bar. Beside him, white bubble letters spell out Scott's signature catchphrase:

"BOO YA!"

The longtime anchor of ESPN's SportsCenter died Jan. 4 of cancer at age 49, prompting tributes.

On Wednesday, one of the more unusual ones popped up in a city noted for unusual murals of the famous — and infamous — when graffiti artist Jonas Swyer climbed to the roof of the bar's storage room and, with the help of two friends, started painting.

"When you're a bartender, most of your night is spent with SportsCenter on," said Swyer, who tends bar for a second income. "I felt like I spent more time with Stuart Scott than I did with my family. The moment the news broke, I knew I was painting him."

Swyer, who goes by the artist name Jonas Never, had previously painted murals for the owners of Melody Bar & Grill and quickly got the OK to paint Scott. From the street, the mural is visible only from a corner of a parking lot.

Bar co-owner Christian Warren said people have been taking photos of the mural from the roof of the building next door and while standing on top of cars in the lot. Because of the mural's discreet location, the hundreds of patrons streaming into the busy In-N-Out Burger just across the street had no idea it existed.

There was some debate about which catchphrase to use, but in the end, "boo ya" won out. "As cool as the other side of the pillow" would have taken a lot of wall space.

The artists spent six hours Wednesday painting the mural.

Swyer snapped a photo and posted it on Instagram. His phone would field so many notifications in the next few hours that it would eventually die.

The @SportsCenter Twitter account tweeted a picture of the art to its almost 13 million followers. An account for the ESPN show SportsNation also sent out praise.

"RESPECT: This Stuart Scott mural in Los Angeles is incredible," the tweet said.

An ESPN staffer visited the mural Thursday, Swyer said. Later that afternoon, the artist's phone was still buzzing with text messages from people who had heard about the mural on local radio or online.

"I had no idea this would have this big an impact," Swyer said.

Inside the bar, Quantrell Wiley, 40, who owns a nearby tailoring business and does voice-over work, called Scott a "complete inspiration."

When Wiley first saw the mural, the Westchester native said, his "heart dropped" because it reminded him that Scott had just died. But then he took the mural in.

"I get to see that face now, and that catchphrase," Wiley said. "It just puts a smile on my face."

Ken Johnson, 42, left his vodka on the bar Thursday to go see the mural for himself.

Striding out the back door, he beheld Scott's familiar face and bellowed:

"Oh, ho ho ho, boo yah!"

matt.stevens@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattStevensLAT

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