"I wanted to do something to let him know on behalf of myself and New Zealand that we’re right behind him."
Graham Hoete, known as Mr G, is a New Zealand artist who’s just put the finishing touches on a giant mural of Steven Adams in downtown Oklahoma City. Now based out of Sydney, Hoete is in the US as part of a trip that will also see him produce a Prince tribute piece in Minneapolis and another of Muhammad Ali in Louisville. We got him on the line earlier today to talk about the emerging NBA star and the example he's setting for young men around the country.
Your Steven Adams mural has been referred to as a personal project. What is it about the player that made you want to go out and do it?
My original intention for coming to the US was to do a tribute portrait of Prince. But I thought, I’m heading over here, I might as well see if I can pop into Oklahoma and do one of Steven Adams because he’s just killing it. He’s doing so well for the nation of Aotearoa. I’m from the Bay [of Plenty] as well – I’m from Tauranga and he’s from Rotorua – but he’s a fellow Kiwi, a fellow Polynesian, and I wanted to do something to let him know on behalf of myself and New Zealand that we’re right behind him and supporting him and proud of him.
I just put a call out on my Facebook page [to ask] if anyone knew or had any contacts for Steven or the OKC Thunder. Within an hour, I ended up getting some private messages on Facebook from people who are connected with him. Long story short, I’m here and I got it done.
How long does it take to complete something like this?
It all depends on the artist and how they like to work. I guess I work relatively fast, so it’s taken around two days.
What’s the reception been like while you’ve been in the city?
The people of Oklahoma have been amazing. They’re so kind and hospitable. I’m not saying that as a cliché, they really have been. They’re taking me out for lunch and dinner and all that.
I’m originally from Kawerau and I saw an article on Steven Adams saying there was a phase in his life where he could’ve gone down the path of prospecting for the Mongrel Mob. I’ve been brought up in Kawerau and the mob is probably the prominent gang there. Both my sisters go out with Mongrel Mob [members] so that lifestyle, or that path, is very real for a lot of young dudes – especially young Maori in New Zealand.
With Steven doing so well in the NBA, which is a global platform, what that does is it presents another path for these young guys. The message he’s communicating is really: ‘If I can do it, you can do it too.’ And it doesn’t have to be basketball, it can be anything. I think New Zealand is really starting to come up with a lot of role models now in terms of pursuing your dreams and passions.
OKC had an incredible run in the playoffs. Were you following Adams and the team over the past few weeks?
They had a great season. All the OKC peeps here have been saying that he’s just improved so much this year as well. He’s got a huge fanbase here.
You’re originally from Tauranga but now you're based in Sydney. What prompted the move?
Probably four years ago, I did a portrait for Ice T and Coco of their dog Spartacus. Long story short, the producer of their show wanted to pitch me doing a TV show [where I] spray painted portraits of celebrities’ dogs and presented them.
It was at a point where it was looking pretty promising, so my wife and I sold up. We moved from Tauranga to Sydney as an interim move while we were waiting for the final green light. The TV thing ended up falling through, so we either could’ve stayed in Sydney or moved back to New Zealand. Obviously we decided to stay [in Sydney] and base ourselves there, but I’m heading home all the time. Home is home for me, and that will never change.