'Bring the Thunder': Local artist paints murals for OKC send-off to NBA restart
Two murals, eight feet tall and 16 feet wide, lined a concrete path at Will Rogers World Airport when the Thunder’s bus pulled up Wednesday afternoon.
“Bring the Thunder” and “OKC in ORL” were spray painted in graffiti-style bubble letters on propped-up plywood panels.
The murals were quite literally the last signs of Oklahoma City before Thunder players boarded their flight to Orlando for the season restart. The Thunder entered the NBA bubble Wednesday night and practiced for the first time Friday. Their level of play will determine how long of a stay it will be.
Zach Junker, a diehard Thunder fan, will be tuned into every game when the team resumes its season Aug. 1 against the Jazz.
Until then, he has more painting to do.
The 23-year-old from Oklahoma City was the artist behind the blue, orange and white airport murals. Junker, who has been an NBA fan since Chris Paul’s Hornets played at the Ford Center, was delighted to share his work in front of Paul and the Thunder 15 years later.
“Anytime they post anything that has some of my work in it,” Junker said. “I definitely feel like I turn into a little kid.”
Junker once painted a mural of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden on his bedroom wall. He drew his imaginations of a Thunder logo before the real one existed.
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Now, instead of using a brush, Junker specializes in spray painting massive murals.
His work can be found in local gyms, restaurants and coffee shops, and also at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I just started pursuing it more and more,” Junker said. “I started painting in my backyard all the time, just to come up with new designs and find different ways to challenge myself.”
It’s been his full-time job since last September.
Junker has received seven assignments from the Thunder, which naturally pairs two loves: painting and basketball.
“Ever since I was a kid, my first goal was to go to the NBA,” Junker said. “All I did was play basketball. That was one of the biggest reasons art was on the back-burner for so long. Sun up to sun down I was somewhere playing basketball.”
Junker played in high school at Edmond Memorial. He studied art for two and a half years at East Central in Ada before stepping out on his own.
“After I did some work for the Thunder, it not only felt more legitimate to me, but also to my parents and stuff,” Junker said of his painting career. “After I started doing some work for them is whenever I started to see a lot of growth.”
Junker’s latest work for the team was completed Tuesday at a Thunder storage facility in Oklahoma City. Junker, laughing as he told the story, was surrounded by a 7-foot Steven Adams action figure and cardboard cutouts of players.
The plywood boards, which would be transformed into colorful murals, were already set up for him.
Seven hours later he was finished, and the panels were taken to the airport as a send off for his favorite team.