This Guy’s NBA Tattoos Are So Good Fans Fly to New Zealand for Them

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New Zealander Steve Butcher on how he gets the skin tributes so lifelike.

This article was originally published on VICE New Zealand.

When it comes to the NBA, fandom can take many forms. Some people collect their favorite player’s jerseys, while others look to make a name for themselves as die-hard sneakerheads. It’s all part of the fun of watching basketball, a sport that banks on the marketability of players like no other. Where would we be without Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or Lebron James? And how else can a fan memorialize these unforgettable, and often historic, moments of greatness?

That’s where New Zealand tattooist Steve Butcher comes in. Since he got into tattooing seven years ago, he’s been making a name for himself with his hyperrealistic designs of NBA superstars and other pop-culture icons. The tattoos he’s done have been showcased on ESPN, SB Nation, SportsCenter, and just about every other site dedicated to all things basketball. His work also takes him around the world, and occasionally the world comes to him; it’s not unusual for people overseas to fly to New Zealand specifically to get inked up by the Kiwi.

The trick to getting his tattoos to look so lifelike comes down to one thing, says Butcher: patience. It’s all about putting in every single little detail, so when all’s said and done, you’ll barely be able to tell the difference between the tattoo and the photo it’s based on.

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