• The vitriol aimed at Steven Adams is unfair because it's the NBA star's prerogative to represent New Zealand at the Fiba World Cup or, if the Tall Blacks qualify, the Summer Olympics, according to Hawks mentor Zico Coronel.
• People who are unhappy with the decision of the Oklahoma City Thunder centre can invest their time in making New Zealand a better place because it's within their own control, says Coronel.
Steven Adams will not become a lesser New Zealander if he doesn't slip on a Tall Blacks singlet during his enviable basketball career, according to Hawks coach Zico Coronel.
"Each of us — whether we're six foot or seven, millionaire or not, or whatever — we get one life each which, at the moment, is equivalent for everybody," says Coronel, adding it's Adams prerogative to play for New Zealand or not.
"People get upset with Kevin Durant because he doesn't want to play for Oklahoma City but plays for the Golden State [Warriors]. Who is anyone else to tell him he shouldn't do that just because he's a person of public interest?"
Coronel says fans who put themselves in Adams' and Durant's shoes would absolutely detest it if others told them they can't live in Napier and, for argument's sake, have to live in Whakatāne instead.
"I think that's unfair, so if Steven elects not to play for New Zealand I don't think [he will become a lesser Kiwi]," he says. "If he wants to spend that time playing for New Zealand then it's great but if he doesn't then that's his prerogative as well."
Those unhappy can invest their time in making New Zealand a better place because it's within their own control.
"Maybe they can volunteer at the local food bank or do a great job parenting their own children or the magnitude of other things they can do in their own lives to make things better."
The Oklahoma City Thunder star, who media speculation suggests may be traded to ease the NBA franchise's financial stress, has reignited public debate on whether he is doing the right thing by keeping his professional career in the United States or he's destined to become a lesser Kiwi if he doesn't soon make a commitment to representing New Zealand on the global stage. Adams has grudges against Basketball New Zealand (BBNZ) tracking back to his childhood.
Some critics on digital platforms are even insinuating Adams is using his New Zealand persona to advance his own career.
While not privy to the 26-year-old's rationale and conjectures, Coronel reckons public opinion is amiss on the player's decision not to represent his country at the Fiba World Cup in China from August 31 to September 15.
He says funding to play basketball is the norm for almost every player although after 2002 there was perhaps money to finance junior teams.
"It wasn't too long ago that even senior national teams had to finance themselves," he says. "People miss out on opportunities because they don't have the financial means to pursue them."
Coronel says that happens year in, year out and basketball is just one platform.
"There are opportunities for people to rise above their status so that can be hard," he says. "One of the ways, I guess, is to make the NBA, work hard and be successful."
Adams, Coronel says, is accomplishing that and is a good person who recognises that other people have helped him get there and is now trying to reciprocate wherever he can.
Coronel says that's a reflection of High Performance Sports New Zealand (HPSNZ) — formed in 2011 to help more Kiwi athletes and teams prevail on the toughest global sporting stages — which gives Basketball NZ "just about nothing".
Add to that "minimal government funding" and the code is left floundering, he says, juxtaposing that with many other countries where those who make the cull for junior teams incur no costs on the pathway to higher honours.
HPSNZ and the Government, he says, determine their funds on the likelihood of individuals and teams gracing a world championship, Commonwealth Games and the summer or winter Olympics stages.
"Basketball is the second most popular sport in the world and it's a very difficult sport to win an Olympic medal so it's unlikely that New Zealand would get a medal, therefore, they choose not to fund it."
Conversely, they prefer to invest in obscure codes that have a better chance of returning with some bling.
"If you can find a niche sport that not much of the world plays but is an Olympic sport then that's where the funding tends to go."
Coronel says government influence and lobbying tend to target higher socio-economic sport, such as yachting and rowing.
"Part of that's because they can generate success but also because there are a lot of people there with a lot of money and a lot of influence ... to put pressure on the politicians to help finance your campaign or support you with the projects you want to do."
He says basketball is a sport for the masses in the lower socio-economic groups partly because it's relatively simple and inexpensive to play, unlike other codes that require elaborate sets of equipment.
"Sports like basketball and soccer don't qualify because they are at a very low level to enter."
Coronel says the ramifications of that is people such as Adams feel the brunt of the fiscal uppercut.
"In an individualised case such as Steve, of course, whose father died when he was very young and his mum wasn't [there] so, in many ways, he was close to being an orphan.
"He was very, very fortunate that some people, Blossom Cameron chief among them, took him in and supported him so that meant maybe he had a little less support because BBNZ doesn't really have a huge amount capacity to finance the campaigns the kids have to pay for it."
An age-group national mentor himself, Coronel says some parents and coaches around the country invest valuable time and generous resources into making things happen which led to Adams playing in an NZ U15 team.
He believes BBNZ would love to pick up the bills of junior players and their parents but limited funds mean employing a user-pays model or not having it at all.
The popularity of basketball, he says, hopefully will fuel the corporate appeal to lever that interest to generate more sponsorship deals.
"In many ways the challenge for BBNZ is to try to convince High Performance Sports New Zealand they need to re-allocate the criteria for funding, such as player numbers and public interest in a particular sport as well as the impact that'll have on the wellbeing of a nation."
While many people won't end up at the Olympics village in the quest for medals, they'll acquire healthier lifestyles to help reduce a burgeoning national health bill, says Coronel.