To every boy who has ever been told "get a haircut and find a real job", Steven Adams is an inspiration. The $142 million, four-year contract he has been awarded by United States National Basketball Association team Oklahoma City Thunder is eye-watering evidence of the standard he has reached and the riches that can be earned in the highest realms of sport.

But the inspiration he offers has to be accompanied by the realisation that Adams did not get to there on good fortune alone. Blessed with a towering frame, he has nevertheless worked hard on his game - and must continue to work hard to live up to the value of his contract.

Obviously he has shown the team's management he is worth their outlay to keep him. They did not wait to see what other NBA teams might offer him before his current contract expires at the end of the season just beginning. They put their assessment of him on the table immediately.

It puts him in the top flight of NBA players, which is a stunning achievement for a 23-year-old from a country where basketball does not have the status and college competition that feeds its professional ranks in the United States.

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A number of New Zealand's young basketballers have gone to try to make in the NBA. Adams has done it. Whatever happens from here on - and injury is a risk in every sport - this contract speaks for his achievement.

He would say he has done nothing yet.

He said exactly that after helping the Thunder reach the playoffs last season. Like every team player he wants nothing less than the championship. His obvious hunger for the team's success will be a large part of his value to them.

Now that he has "arrived" and his career is secure for the next four years, it is natural for New Zealanders to hope he will turn out for the Tall Blacks on occasions.

Perhaps he will, but there should be no pressure put upon him to do so. He is in a demanding profession, and those who are paying him have invested heavily in his fitness and commitment to their goals and programmes.

It is enough that we can bask in the reflected glory of his dominance on the court and his personality off it.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
3 Nov, 2016 7:00am
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With his flowing hair and drooping moustache, he has cultivated a personal image at Oklahoma City as distinctive as his leaps around the basket. He looks and talks like a man comfortable with who he is, seemingly without a trace of conceit. Every recorded comment suggests he remains a down-to-earth Kiwi who has not forgotten those who helped set him on his way.

Returning home between seasons this year, he already was an inspiration, visiting schools and talking to pupils. In his unassuming, down-home way, he presents teachers and parents with a dilemma. Watching and listening to him, every young person can believe there is nothing they might not achieve if they try hard enough. Yet the top echelons of international professional sports are reached by very few who set out with talent, enthusiasm, dedication and hope.

Adams has made it, as did his sister Valerie, and New Zealand could not be more proud.