Steven Adams makes Kiwi basketball history

By Hayden Donnell

Steven Adams shakes the hand of outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern after being drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo/AP
Steven Adams shakes the hand of outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern after being drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo/AP

Steven Adams has become the first Kiwi basketball player to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft.

The 2.13m (7ft) centre from Rotorua was selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 12th pick of the draft this afternoon.

He will play alongside superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Click here to see a personal message from Steven Adams to his fans.

Adams, the brother of Olympic shotput champion Valerie Adams, is only the second Kiwi player to be selected in the NBA draft and the first to go in its first round of 30 picks.

He revealed a New Zealand flag sewn on the inside of his suit and thanked his Kiwi fans during his post-selection interview with ESPN.

"Thank you for all the support guys and I'm pretty much doing it as a Kiwi, man.

Always," he said.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are championship contenders, with a talented roster built around a transcendent scorer in Durant.

However they are weak at the centre position, where they start fading defensive specialist Kendrick Perkins and bring useful-but-limited journeyman Nick Collison off the bench.

Adams said he was happy to go to the franchise.

"It feels amazing eh. All the New Zealand family was just rooting for OKC. So I'm pretty happy that I'm ending up in OKC.

He will receive a starting salary of at least NZ$2.2 million in his first year, rising to $2.4 million in 2015.

Some reports say Adams decided to declare for the draft to give financial support to his parents and 17 siblings.

ESPN analyst Bill Simmons said the Kiwi centre could be a future difference-maker for the Thunder.

"This is an energy guy... Everybody loves his personality. People were talking about him like he was Eddie Murphy circa 1983."

Sean Marks was the last Kiwi player to be drafted into the NBA.

He was selected by the New York Knicks with the 44th pick in 1998.

Sharpshooter Kirk Penny was not drafted but played brief stints in the NBA for the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Adams averaged 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2 blocks a game during his single season of college basketball for the University of Pittsburgh

He surprised NBA analysts with his decision to declare for the draft, with many saying he should have worked on his game for an extra year in college before making the step up.

However, he jumped up draft boards with a series of impressive workouts in front of top NBA executives.

Earlier, the draft got off to a shocking start, with the Cleveland Cavaliers picking power forward Anthony Bennett at number one.

Centre Nerlens Noel, who was seen as a virtual lock to go number one overall, fell to the New Orleans Pelicans at number six.

He was then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for star point guard Jrue Holiday and a 2014 first round pick.

Shooting guard Victor Oladipo went to the Orlando Magic at number two and hometown favourite Otto Porter went to the Washington Wizards at number three.

Draft order:

1. Anthony Bennett - Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Victor Oladipo - Orlando Magic
3. Otto Porter - Washington Wizards
4. Cody Zeller - Charlotte Bobcats
5. Alex Len - Phoenix Suns
6. Nerlens Noel - New Orleans Pelicans (traded to the Philedelphia 76ers)
7. Ben McLemore - Sacramento Kings
8. Kentavious Caldwell Pope - Detroit Pistons
9. Trey Burke - Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to the Utah Jazz)
10. CJ McCollom - Portland Trailblazers
11. Michael Carter-Williams - Philadelphia 76ers
12. Steven Adams - Oklahoma City Thunder
13. Kelly Olynyk - Dallas Mavericks (traded to the Boston Celtics)
14. Shabazz Muhammad - Utah Jazz (traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves)
15. Giannis Atntetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks
16. Dennis Schroeder - Boston Celtics
17. Shane Larkin - Atlanta Hawks
18. Sergey Karasev - Atlanta Hawks
19. Tony Snell - Chicago Bulls
20. Gorgui Dieng - Utah Jazz

- nzherald.co.nz

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