By all accounts, Mr. Neiman was the foremost artist of the sporting world. He was the official artist of the Olympic Games five times and a regular presence at the Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl and international auto races for decades.
He was the artist-in-residence of the New York Jets football team and, in 1980, the official artist of the Democratic National Convention. He became so renowned for his paintings of boxers that he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Mr. Neiman’s signature style included sheets of splashy color, yet the central figures of his paintings always remained recognizable and full of vigor. Though seldom loved by critics, his bright, colorful artworks managed to capture the glamour, spectacle and drama of sports.
“LeRoy can do more with a paintbrush than a monkey can do with a peanut,” boxing promoter Don King once said. “LeRoy captures the universe, puts the image on canvas and gives it eternal life.”
Mr. Neiman contributed illustrations to Playboy magazine for more than 50 years, published dozens of books and sold paintings, drawings, prints and posters by the thousands. He became a millionaire many times over and adopted the persona of a dandy, with flamboyant white suits, an ever-present cigar, a luxuriant head of hair and a mustache that stretched almost ear to ear.
“When I sketched [dancer] Martha Graham,” he said to the New York Observer in 2001, “she told me vanity is very important. It makes you proud of what you do. I totally agree.”
He was for many years a fixture on television, called on to make instant illustrations during sporting events and elections. He portrayed presidents (Jimmy Carter), public figures (Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr.) and such cultural icons as Leonard Bernstein, Frank Sinatra, Mae West, Diana Ross, the Beatles and James Brown. Among athletes, a few of his countless subjects included Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, Sandy Koufax and Jack Nicklaus.
“Often, Neiman’s mere presence at an event overshadows it,” a Sports Illustrated article noted in 1975. Once, while he stood on the sideline while the Jets were playing poorly, the crowd began chant, “Put LeRoy in!”
He appeared in three of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” movies, twice as the ring announcer.
Mr. Neiman made his first sports paintings at the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. He covered the Indianapolis 500 in 1962 and, two years later, began a series of paintings of Ali. From then on, Mr. Neiman became the court painter of sports royalty.
Some of his paintings have sold for as much as $500,000, and his work can be found in the National Portrait Gallery and Baltimore Museum of Art. Yet Mr. Neiman has seldom been treated warmly by critics. Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes once dismissed his work as “slather.”