After experiencing his first haka, former NBA basketball player Shagari "Mighty Joe" Alleyne was moved enough to tell the Kawerau community he loved them.
Alleyne, along with two other streetballers from New York's Team 914, were welcomed to the mill town on Tuesday with a powhiri - a first for the stars.
Standing at 2.3m tall, the Bronx born-and-raised "baller" was easy to spot at Tarawera High School, formerly Kawerau College, where he told students about his troubled younger days and how basketball paved the way to his success.
Streetball is a variation of basketball and is typically played on outdoor courts or half courts.
Last year's winners of the Dyckman League, Team 914, who beat NBA star Kevin Durant's Team Nike on the way to the final, have sent the trio to New Zealand in partnership with There's a Better Way Foundation, a foundation that looks to make positive change in communities by using basketball as a platform.
Te Wananga o Aotearoa Kawerau youth mentoring co-ordinator Jordaan Tuitama, who runs the foundation programme in Kawerau, said the day had been a huge success.
"Our aim was to get to every student in Kawerau and we've done that," Mr Tuitama said.
"And the Kawerau versus New York game at the Recreation Centre allowed us the opportunity to involve the entire community."
Alleyne, Aaron "The Problem" Williams and Dave "Super Dave" Seager visited every primary school in Kawerau before making the college their final stop of the day. Students were given the opportunity to listen to the positive message spread by the players and then took to the court in a game against one of the Team 914 players.
Alleyne told the captivated students he had been all but written off by his teachers but it was basketball that enabled him to progress through to college.
"They all told me I couldn't so I proved to them I could. I proved it to myself as well."
At 4pm, a three-on-three streetball competition began with the winners of the 20-team competition given the chance to play against the stars.