In a sport where statistics tell so much of the story, toughness remains one of the true unquantifiable measurements in basketball.

It is not just the difference between sitting out a game and battling through pain - the qualities of toughness present themselves in many unexpected circumstances throughout an NBA season.

But there is also a tightrope to navigate between being tough and being dirty.

Big Read: The Steven Adams Effect


Very few define toughness and its quandaries as well as Steven Adams, who has been plastered with all the labels given to players involved in multiple confrontations. Tough, dirty, sneaky, gritty, pesky, a pest, an aggravator - Adams has been called them all in a career which has been synonymous with physical moments.

What sets Adams aside from the majority of his NBA brethren, though, is his laid-back demeanour, which can perplex and infuriate his more experienced combatants.

While Adams can aggravate his opponents, the gangly Kiwi never responds in anger or retaliates, regardless of whether it is Zach Randolph punching him in the face or Draymond Green kicking him in the groin.

Additionally, Adams has missed very few games through the first three seasons of his NBA career. He was active for all encounters in his rookie season, missed 12 the following year and played in 80 of 82 contests this season.

Throw 36 playoff games into the mix and Adams has played in 267 games in his career to date - the third most of any centre in that time span.

Perhaps more importantly, while many of his NBA adversaries can lose their minds when taking him on, none of his peers question Adams' toughness, and Green professed a healthy respect when their personal battle concluded.

NBA folklore is littered with tales of players whom nobody beat in a physical confrontation. Steven Adams could be on the way to joining that group.