Basketball: Steven Adams' star power just grows and grows

By Simon Plumb, Neil Reid

Steven Adams has built a cult following among Oklahoma City Thunder fans, many donning his now-famous moustache ... in various forms. Photo / Getty Images
Steven Adams has built a cult following among Oklahoma City Thunder fans, many donning his now-famous moustache ... in various forms. Photo / Getty Images

He's taken the sports world by storm and become a cult hero - but you've only seen the start of the Steven Adams sensation.

The 22-year-old Kiwi has transformed from an NRL rookie to one of basketball's biggest stars in the space of three years, rapidly becoming the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder's charge in the NBA Western Conference play-offs against championship favourites the Golden State Warriors.

He's a slam-dunk sensation with NBA fans, media and sponsors who can't get enough of "Brand Adams".

As OKC's momentum through the Western Conference finals - which continue tomorrow - has grown, so too has Adams' star power.

A growing legion of his hardcore fans have donned fake moustaches and posted photos on social media in honour of their hero - including a child posing outside the Thunder's base with a stick-on moustache and a felt-tip version of Adams' tribal tattoo.

The sporting media have embraced the down-to-earth Kiwi. American scribes have dubbed him and high-profile teammate Enes Kanter the "Stache Bros".

The Australian press have described him as an "anomaly", the New York Times said he's "one of the most important cogs in the Thunder machine" and even the football-obsessed British media, who would normally ignore basketball, are sitting up to take notice.

"This 7ft tall New Zealander with a sleeve of tattoos is fast becoming the star of the NBA play-offs and is even putting the league's most valuable player Stephen Curry in the shade," the BBC wrote online this week.

It's not just his support base which is on a rapid rise - "Kiwi Steve's" pay cheque is also set for a massive boost.

Adams will bank $3.3 million this season and $4.6 million for 2016-17, in the final year of his current deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Beyond that, he is expected to command a salary of at least $22 million a season - that figure is only set to grow if he can help his side reach the NBA Finals series.

It would make him New Zealand's highest-paid athlete, eclipsing the $7 million a season All Whites captain Winston Reid is paid by Premier League side West Ham United.

Lucrative off-court earnings will only add to his riches.

Adams' long-time mentor and former NZ NBL star Kenny McFadden said the young New Zealander was now viewed as a "hot property" by cashed-up corporates keen to sign him for endorsement deals. And those deals could be the tip of the iceberg for Adams' ever-rising off-court value if OKC win the championship.

- NZ Herald

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