Artwork: Another way to look at NBA Finals

These NBA Finals -- knotted 1-1 as the Thunder and Heat head to Miami -- might become among the most dramatic in league history.

Such drama calls for special rendering. Enter Dustin Watson, a 30-year-old, Phoenix-born-and-raised graphic designer who on the side runs his website Dark Wing Illustration, home to a series of stunning, vividly colored portraits of numerous NBA players and other athletes.

Like this one:

Naturally, Watson doesn't just illustrate LeBron James and other players from the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. Truth is, as a Phoenician he's an incurable Suns fan, often featuring the boys from the Valley (and even composing a Suns-themed comic strip once upon a time).

But he does have quite the collection of Heat-Thunder work -- pieces that, among other things, mix 2-D and 3-D, realism and comic book sensibility, all of which creates an image more memorable than a photograph. Watson was kind enough to share these with us, as well as his thoughts about art and basketball via email.

How'd you get started in basketball art? I imagine it began long ago ...

"I've always enjoyed sketching -- my notebooks in school were consistently filled with more doodles than actual notes -- and I started doing little illustrations in MS Paint on my parents' old computer that didn't even have the Internet when I was in high school.

"I really got serious about finding my style and improving as an artist about eight years ago, and have been combining my loves of illustration and basketball ever since."

Do you remember your first NBA one?

"The first one I ever did was Amare Stoudemire -- I thought it was AWESOME ... looking back, not so much. But that feeling of accomplishment really gave me the motivation to continue.

"It was back when the Suns were running with [Stephon] Marbury. Honestly, I always loved Amare and I remember reading a basketball magazine that had done a feature on him and thinking I should try it. Up to that point, I had done mostly simple stuff and figured I needed to just jump into the deep end and challenge myself."

Seems like you're quite the Suns fan, judging from your portfolio.

"I'm a Suns fan for life, although I am a fan of basketball first and foremost. I love playoff basketball and am excited for this series. I'm really hoping it goes seven, and while I wouldn't mind seeing either team win, I would love to see LeBron get over that hump and finally carry a team to the title."

Speaking of which, are you planning any more Finals-themed illustrations?

"I have a couple of other things I'm working on right now, but I'm thinking that once it's all said and done, I'll probably do an illustration featuring one of the first-time NBA champions with the Larry O'Brien Trophy."

All images courtesy of the artist.

Links to featured works: James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Westbrook/Durant.