Kiwi basketball giant Steven Adams is making a huge mark in the glamorous American NBA, with a game and influence to match his size. His career takes another step up when the Oklahoma City Thunder face the heavily favoured Golden State Warriors in the western conference finals series which starts this afternoon.
1) The 22-year-old, who started off in college basketball at Pittsburgh, is in the third year of an NBA career which is taking off big time. ESPN analyst Zach Lowe wrote Adams was now a core Thunder player. "He's team-first, willing to do the physical grunt work that frees (Kevin) Durant and (Russell) Westbrook to fly. He's massive and immovable, symbolic of the Thunder's belief that even as the NBA gets smaller and faster, the right sort of size at every position can trump everything."
2) Adams is renowned for getting under the skin of opponents, even veterans. When the LA Times polled 24 anonymous coaches and players, Adams was voted the second dirtiest player in the NBA. A player described Adams as "real physical, but he crosses the line with stuff. He'll throw a sneaky elbow, push you in the back and foul you extra hard." LA guard Nick Young was ejected for shoving Adams and said the Kiwi's constant talking played a part. "I lost my mind a little bit, checked into the crazy house." Players have punched Adams, who seems to escape a lot of foul problems himself.
3) Adams, a centre, is 2.13m (in shoes) and 116kg, with a wing span of 2.27m, and a standing reach of 2.8m. These stats suggest he is a touch bigger than average for his position. In a comparison of draft prospects in 2013, Adams had the biggest hand width of 27.5cm. He wears size 19 sneakers. If those numbers don't excite you, what about this? An ESPN basketball expert reckons Adams will command around $88m for four years when he re-signs with the Thunder or tests the market, putting him in the NBA's top 30 earners. At the moment, he battles away on a restricted rookie wage less than $5m. Adams wants to financially improve the lives of his family in New Zealand.
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4) Adams is, famously, a half brother of world shot put star Valerie Adams. Their father was Englishman, Sid, whose height has been estimated up to 2m. Sid had 18 children (some say it is actually 21) with five women (some say it is actually six). Steven is the youngest. According to Steven, a reason Navy man Sid Adams moved to New Zealand was the teasing he received at home over being a "freak" who was so tall. Sid died of stomach cancer aged 76 in 2006 when Steven was 13 - "worn down by life and battered from a car accident" as one story put it. Like Val Adams, Steven is half Tongan. Various reports say Adams' mother has not been a big part of his life.
5) On his relationship with Val, Adams told the Herald it involved normal brother-sister banter. "That's all it is - nothing crazy, like no life-changing advice. I wouldn't want it from her, anyway."
6) Team mates are impressed at how Adams is hard to impress. Veteran power forward Nick Collison told ESPN: "He's just so high energy, so wide-eyed. He doesn't take things too seriously. I think that's the culture from his background. He's all about, 'Get over yourself.' He didn't grow up with the dream to play in the NBA, and it shows." Collison is also wowed by how much Adams eats. "He'll eat all day long."
7) Adams has suffered migraine headaches since he was 14 and had to battle past another one to star in the final game of the western conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs.
8) Three people had huge roles in setting Adams on a good path in life. His brother Warren, who lured him to Wellington and away from bad influences in Rotorua; American-Kiwi basketball icon Kenny McFadden; and fitness trainer Blossom Cameron who became Adams' legal guardian.
9) He's quirky, doesn't want to be a "drilled kinda media guy." He told reporters that his hometown of Rotorua "smells like someone farted in your face all the time but you get used to it." On maintaining a daily dialogue with the media Adams quipped "If there's food, I'm in." And he's never forgotten cricket's underarm incident, even though it happened before he was born. "They cheated us...I search out Aussies and make it my job to make their lives miserable."
10) Yet Adams keeps turning the Tall Blacks down. Straight-shooting basketball identity Jeff Green claims Adams is sticking up for mentor McFadden over his poor treatment by the national administration. Green said: "He dearly wants to play for New Zealand...but he's not going to let an organisation do things to his friends." But McFadden immediately countered last year saying there was no tension with BBNZ and Adams "will pull on that black singlet one day when the time is right" Retired Tall Blacks stalwart Kirk Penney, who played a few NBA matches, echoed that telling Stuff: "I hope at some point in time he puts the Tall Blacks jersey on, and I'm sure he'll wear it with great pride. That moment will come when it's right for him."