Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Adams draws on roots for fresh tattoo

Artist has to spend double time on giant basketball star’s Polynesian arm pattern.

Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi worked closely with Steven Adams to create the intricate tattoo.
Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi worked closely with Steven Adams to create the intricate tattoo.

NBA star Steven Adams has added some fresh ammunition to his blocking and shooting arm - a Polynesian tattoo.

His arm was so big the tattooist spent double the time to create the artwork, inspired by the Kiwi basketballer's Tongan roots.

"He sat for about eight hours," said tattooist Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi, owner of Wellington's Taupou Tatau. "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."

Adams was in the country for a holiday after a stellar rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder team, which made the western conference finals.

On Sunday night he posted a photo of himself and Mr Tauafiafi, saying: "Thank you Taupou Tatau for the fresh ink. Much love, brother."

Adams' tattoo is wrapped around an existing one of his middle name - Funaki - and incorporates ta moko and intricate triangular patterns unique to Pasifika. It pays tribute to his connection to New Zealand and his Tongan roots, on his mother's side.

Mr Tauafiafi said Adams approached him with an idea of what he wanted and they worked together to come up with the end result.

"I don't want to go into too much about his tattoo because tattoos are a personal thing. All I can say about what we created for Steven was ... the tattoo that he did get was half Maori and half Tongan.

"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."

Adams joins a long list of other Polynesian stars who sport a contemporary tatau sleeve; including All Black Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams and Hollywood star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Mr Tauafiafi said it was nice to see a local young person do so well in the world and still remain grounded.

"I've met him a couple of times before and from that first time I met him to after one year of being in the NBA, he's still that humble kid from New Zealand."

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- NZ Herald

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