Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams is truly one of the most polarizing, yet colorful characters in the NBA today. Partially due to this, it’s why we’re going to look at some Steven Adams tattoos.
Adams holds the distinction as the first New Zealander selected in the first round of the NBA draft when the Thunder took him 12th overall in 2013. The 6-foot-11 big has since made it a point to always represent his diverse culture in the biggest stage of basketball.
Adams proudly enters each game with some impressive battle ink inspired by his Maori (New Zealand) and Tongan roots.
The amazing Polynesian art covers massive portions of his upper body — particularly his entire right chest area extending to a full sleeve on his right arm.
Let’s take a closer look at the intricate designs immortalized on his body.
Steven Adams Tattoos And Their Meaning
Before rocking that glorious mound of long hair and his now trademark mustache, Adams entered the league looking like a typical clean-cut youngster. Adams only had one tattoo at the time, displaying his middle name “Funaki” on his right forearm.
Once he found his footing in the league in the next couple of years, Adams found it fitting to represent his people through art. The complex black-and-white tribal designs have been a popular choice in the tattoo scene for the last couple of years.
Cultural appropriation has been a hot topic when it comes to tribal tattoos, but that was certainly not the case for the OKC big man.
Adams, who was born and raised in the city of Rotua, New Zealand of the shores of Lake Rotua, started off with a large, well-crafted piece on his right arm. The 27-year-old center kept his “Funaki” tattoo but had it surrounded by carefully drawn tribal patterns.
Thought from summer league: Steven Adams' new tattoo is LARGE. Here's the pic again if you missed it last time: pic.twitter.com/It40dv5O1M
— Boomtown Hoops (@BoomtownHoops) July 5, 2014
Steven Adams found the right artist for the job, working with Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi who specializes in Polynesian tattoo designs.
Adams has since been coming down to Taupou Tatau, Tattoo Studio in Wellington, New Zealand each time he wishes to get inked. Considering the NBA star is indeed a mammoth of a man, Tauafiafi, revealed that it was challenging to tattoo an individual with such a large canvass.
“He sat for about eight hours, but if you can understand that his forearm is probably someone’s whole arm. I thought, ‘man, he’s a big man’ – it took double time,” the revered tattoo artist shared.
While Adams has mostly kept the meaning behind his tattoos a secret, Tauafiafi further elaborated how significant each design is for the Thunder big.
“What we did represented family, strength and protection. With any Polynesian or Maori culture, those are the main things. I guess it’s to keep him grounded and have the support with him – not in body, but in spirit,” he shared.
Adams continued to tattoo journey in the coming years, adding interconnecting designs to cover his entire arm and chest area. This is similar to that of Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson, another prominent celebrity of Polynesian descent.
The fierce design features bands, triangular shapes, and spaces, while the wave-like patterns give the look a complete island vibe.
Eagle-eyed fans on Reddit even noticed that Adams also covered up an earlier tattoo design of claw scratches on his chest — an ode to his one-and-done collegiate stint with the Pittsburg Panthers.
While the original Polynesian tattoos were a symbol for a warrior’s bravery, it certainly personifies Adams’ combatant spirit on the hardwood.