As towering Kiwi Steven Adams takes to the court today for the biggest game of his life, back home his former school teacher Bea Yates is bursting with pride.
Adams' team Oklahoma City Thunder must beat the Golden State Warriors to make it to the NBA finals.
The former Rotorua basketballer has made global headlines impressing for his team in this memorable NBA Western Conference finals.
Bea Yates, or 'Auntie Bea' as she is affectionately known, used to teach Adams at Rotorua Lakes High School and says she is his biggest fan.
"He is the apple of my eye . . . I am Steven Adams' number one fan. When he is on TV I jump up and down. I shout and cheer, I yell and I say "Go Steven!" she said.
"He has done so well but I always knew he would. Steven always said, 'I want to be a basketball player', and I think he is number one in the world in my eyes at the moment.
"Everybody back home here is supporting him and I say kia kaha."
Adams and the Thunder face a difficult challenge in Oakland, locked 3-3 in the NBA Western Conference final series with the victor progressing to the finals to meet LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But Auntie Bea, who taught Adams in Maori studies, is positive her former pupil will get a good result and said the school and Rotorua were fully behind him.
"When I first met Steven he made a real impression, especially because he had such huge feet. He could never find shoes that fitted him properly," she said.
"But those feet help on the court and I remember going to watch him play basketball in the school gym - he was something special even then.
"He was also a lovely student with so much strength inside and we are all going to be cheering Steven on.
"Even though he won't be able to hear us I hope he knows he has a place in our heart."
Tony Renshaw, Adams' former maths teacher and year 10 dean at Rotorua Lakes High
School also praised the star.
He warned him to avoid any "low blows" after Adams was squarely kicked below the below by Warriors forward Draymond Green earlier in the series..
"I am very pleased to see the fantastic success you have turned out to be and we are all backing you to win tomorrow," he said.
"But no low blows, don't let them get you below the belt boy."
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