Illustrator and self-proclaimed “vector art monster” Rob Zilla (Robert Generette III) teamed up with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors to create their 2017 Warriors Fan Night giveaway T-shirt and cheer card. Go behind the scenes in our video (at the bottom of this page).

Rob Zilla designed this cheer card for the Golden State Warriors.

Every season, the Warriors create a T-shirt for Warriors Fan Night, and this year the Warriors (working with sponsor Adobe) tapped sports portraitist Rob Zilla for the job. Rob has done work for pro franchises like Major League Soccer team D.C. United and his favorite NBA team, the Washington Wizards, for whom he recently did a multi-story mural. But Rob jumped at the chance to do something with the Warriors. “This is super special…NBA champions, possibly our next NBA championship team,” says Rob. “And a teacher from a small town right outside of Washington, D.C., is doing a project for them. That’s incredible. It still blows my mind.”

Warriors T-shirt designed by Rob Zilla

Rob Zilla designed a Fan Night giveaway T shirt featuring Warriors players, coaches, fans, and staffers.

The project unfolded over a couple months. After some initial remote meetings, Rob visited the team before a mid-season game, where he got to sit courtside and watch players like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant during warm-ups.

“What I was mainly doing was observing,” says Rob. “I wanted to see how the players interacted with each other when the cameras are not on, when the crowds are not there. It played a big part in the final composition of what players to put beside each other when it came to the cheer card.”

He continues, “I got to see Steph do his two-ball thing. I got to see Draymond [Green] yell when he missed a shot…. “It helps the process because it gives me that perspective I need; when I go to look through all the reference photos, I know which one best exemplifies that player for me.”

Rob worked with the Warriors marketing and design departments to plan the shirt and cheer card. In initial discussions, some themes emerged, primarily around the Warriors “Strength in Numbers” team philosophy, and the organization’s emphasis on community. The T-shirt idea came to Rob pretty quickly, inspired by the cover of the classic A Tribe Called Quest album Midnight Marauders. The shirt is a grid, made up of a mix of players, coaches, fans, and staffers, symbolic of the family that is the Warriors’ community, and it includes some favorite fans like “Dance Cam Mom” and “Gold Suit Man,” as well as announcer Jim Barnett and Warriors organization legends like Al Attles and Jerry West.

Rob Zilla’s portraits of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green of the Warriors.

Rob went back to D.C. and worked on the shirt and cheer card before coming back for the final game of the season to see his work. “It was a very, very special moment,” he says. I still can’t believe it happened.”

Go behind the scenes with Rob Zilla in our video profile (click on the image to watch).