KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — A Tennessee artist who recently moved to Kinston got a crash course in the city’s rich basketball history.

It all started with a painting. It’s the reason he’s now in some way connected with Kinston native Brandon Ingram and his family.

“I’m actually a huge sports fan. Brandon Ingram was actually one of my favorite players,” artist Joshua Blankinship said. 

Blankinship is just one of Ingram’s many fans. The star NBA player has a huge following. 

“I created it out of appreciation for being a fan of Brandon,” Blankinship said.

The artist, with more than 15 years of experience, recently moved to Kinston from Tennessee. 

“We knew it was a big basketball town but we never really looked into it,” Blankenship said. “As far as all the players who’ve come out of here … I didn’t even realize Kinston was where he was from. But as soon as I figured it out, I said ‘This is awesome.’ I wanted the community to have something to be proud of.”

That’s just one reason Blankinship made a painting of Ingram. He said he also did it out of appreciation for Ingram. The piece took him 15 hours or so to make.

Blankinship shared it on Facebook and word made it back to Brandon’s dad, Donald Ingram. He was in Phoenix at the time watching the New Orleans Pelicans play the Phoenix Suns in the NBA playoffs.  

Donald Ingram said he loved the painting.

“I got a message from Facebook from several people, a lot of friends, reached out to me and told me about this particular painting about Brandon.”[They said] you need to get up with this guy and he has the ideal likeness of Brandon. He loves art, he loves himself, he loves the big game of basketball. So there’s a lot that goes along with that picture with Brandon.”

As fate would have it, the Ingram family and Blankinship were able to meet.

“It just so happened Brandon came home on Mother’s Day,” Donald Ingram said. “I reached out to [Joshua] and told him he was here and he came over to see him.”

“Brandon’s family reaching out, inquiring about the piece is much more than I expected,” Blankenship said.

Blankinship posted photos of them on together on Facebook. It captured the time they met. It has more than 650 reactions and it’s been shared more than 230 times. 

“To see Brandon take notice to that particular painting, and his joy, that was really satisfactory for us,” Donald Ingram said. 

“Definitely, the coolest thing has happened so far in my art journey,” Blankinship added. 

“When he left a painting, when he got a chance to meet Brandon and I saw the smile on his face, to us that was, that was overwhelming, even to us,” Donald Ingram explained. 

The Ingrams loved the painting so much they purchased it. 

“I gave him a jersey, he and his wife, a jersey, [and] some shoes,” Donald Ingram said. “We gave him a variety of different items and everything, and a contribution towards his painting. He did not ask for all that.

“The money didn’t change us. We’re still the same people. We wanted to make sure that we showed our gratitude. You gave us a gift. You painted the painting from the heart, so we want to give back, giving from the heart.”

 “I’m extremely proud and happy the Ingrams have that piece,” Blankinship said. 

To see some of Blankinship’s other pieces, you can visit his website or contact him at Joshua Blankinship Fine Art Studio on Facebook.