Nathan McKee Creates and Recreates Blazer Memories

Portland Trail Blazers Moda Center Art Nathan Mckee (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers Moda Center Art Nathan Mckee (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /

Nathan McKee has been a trailblazer of sorts in the artistic world. He specializes in unique illustrations, drawing inspiration from landmark sports moments in Portland history.

Portland is known to be a city of creatives, innovators, and boundary pushers. These ideals are exemplified by Nathan McKee, a local artist who weaves a variety of culture, music, and sport into his illustrations and paper cutouts. The Portland native’s most impressive paper cuts revolve around some of the greatest Blazers to ever play the game.

“I grew up in Portland in the ‘80s, mostly skating and reading magazines about other places. I think growing up skating and listening to punk and hip hop really inspired me. I’d see so many album covers or read Thrasher Magazine and be inspired by the styles and design I saw. It was a very DIY scene and it inspired my hands on approach to making art,” McKee said. “Portland in the ‘80s was nothing like the Portland of today and the Blazers were bigger than life. I tend to make nostalgic art of my youth and the Blazers are part of that.”

Some of his pieces include artistic renditions of Blazer greats past and present, including Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler, and Arvydas Sabonis. These art pieces appear on a range of mediums, including prints, shirts, cards, buttons, magnets, and even ornaments.

“I think most of my Blazer related shirts and prints are my most popular for obvious reasons. I just make things I want. At the time when I made the Sheed shirt I just wanted a Sheed shirt and I didn’t see any out there available so I made one for myself and it took off from there,” McKee said. “ I think my favorite Blazers piece I’ve done has to be my screaming paper cut Sheed. It was part of a series I did where every Sheed was the same except in a different jersey of a team he played for. So all said and done, I had six different but similar Sheeds all screaming.

McKee focuses on the newer era of Blazer players, too. His discography consists of notable post-Jail Blazer era players, like Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and even Meyers Leonard.

“I try to stay away from things that are already being made cause what’s the use? Like my new Brandon Roy shirt is just something I wanted and you don’t see much Brandon Roy gear around in 2019,” McKee said. “I think a lot of the imagery that I’m drawn to marks a moment in time, whether good or bad, for the Blazers. I think looking at some of my work for some people can take them back to that moment. Whether it’s Brandon Roy or Lillard sinking a game winner versus the Rockets or even further back like Drexler or Kersey in the ‘87 dunk contest, I think my work helps people remember the past & not just the present.”

McKee has collaborated with the biggest name in sports in the past. These press runs consist of heavyweights in the sports sphere, namely Bleacher Report, Adidas, Puma, and even local artists like Keith Fujimoto (Oakley & Allen) with their “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” DVD.

“Man, I’ve had a couple great [collaborations] but I think my favorite so far has to be when I worked with Adidas for the Adidas Hoops collective. Basically, they sent me and five other artists to the New Orleans All-Star Weekend and we just made art inspired by the weekend. So I’d make a James Harden or Kristaps Porzingis image at the game and then [the players] would come in and talk to me about it and my process. It was surreal,” McKee said. “Keith is the man! We have been fans of each other forever. We started chatting about music and different eras of basketball and hit it off. I had a solo show entitled “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” that focused on being young and Keith put together a video with music to accompany my art. It ruled!”

His impact in the artistic scene alongside the deep sports culture that runs through the vein of Oregon cannot be understated.

Portland Trail Blazers: 15 Greatest Scorers of All Time. dark. Next

“Portland has changed a lot in the past 10 years and I like to remind people, whether in basketball or in general, that there were things that existed before them or before they moved to the city,” McKee said. “As far as [the] NBA landscape, I like to think I’ve helped influence other artists to follow their visions of art and sports.”

You can check out his art on his website and follow him on his social media accounts (Instagram: @nathan_mcke_art / Twitter: @Dr_Dawg_MD / Tumblr: