Andy Warhol had already created thousands of celebrity portraits by the time his good friend, the art collector Richard Weisman, commissioned a series of paintings of top athletes in 1978.

The artist, who had not previously been tuned in to the sports world, found the subject matter an easy leap from the artists, actors, and musicians with whom he was typically enamored.

As he later recalled: “I really got to love the athletes because they are the really big stars."