On the basketball court, he's unflappable, this lanky kid from Rotorua. Off court, the same - journalists love Steven Adams for his quirky interviews and laid-back style.

Today, it was confirmed the 23-year-old had signed a US$102 million ($142 million), four-year NBA contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It's an almost unfathomable sum, and far in excess of his restricted rookie wage of less than $5 million.

What will it mean to Adams? Not that much, says the woman who helped raise him, and guided his first efforts on the basketball court.

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Blossom Cameron became Adams' guardian when he moved to Wellington in his early teens. She was also his first basketball coach, when he began making his mark at Scots College.

Cameron, who considers herself Adams' mother, was pleased for his success, but non-plussed by the dollars involved. She reckons Adams will feel the same.

"He's just doing what he should be doing and getting paid what he should be getting paid. As long as he's paying his bills and he's happy that's all that matters to me as a parent.

"I don't care if he gets $1, as long as he's happy."

Adams, who started in college basketball at Pittsburgh before moving to the NBA three years ago, is known as a busy player, good on defence, niggly and always willing to put the team first.

The 2.13m tall centre has always had to fight for his future. His wasn't an easy start to life.

He's famously the half-brother of double Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams. Their father, Sid, who died when Adams was 13, is said to have fathered 18 children, possibly even 21. Adams' mother is said not to have been a big part of his life.

Did his circumstances make him determined? Maybe.

Cameron remembers him as a normal kid, with no real aspirations. But he always gave his best.

"He always wanted to be good at what he was doing, he worked hard whether it was at school or in basketball ... he was trying to get on in life without any parents. He was determined to do this and he did it. Look at him."