It's incongruous given all he's achieved, but Steven Adams initially disliked basketball.

Far from instantly falling in love with the game that has since given the Kiwi a handsome living, it was instead the joy of incremental personal progress that kept him in the sport.

At a "bad spot" in his life, basketball allowed Adams to grow, eventually flourishing from an oversized and unmotivated kid into one of the best centres in the NBA.

And that's the message that Adams has brought back to New Zealand while this week conducting camps with Kiwi kids around the country: that basketball can provide both purpose and a pathway.


"I didn't actually like the game at first," Adams said in a North Shore gym this morning. "But I really fell in love with the progress, just seeing a little bit of progress, and it made me feel like I had a bit of purpose in my life, as cheesy as that sounds.

"Because I was in a bad spot and I just didn't feel like anything. So once I saw myself grow, I just understood that I could grow to be something I wanted to be. And it wasn't an NBA player - I just kept working and I just wanted to see myself grow every day."

That growth eventually led to the Oklahoma City Thunder and will very soon lead to riches that Adams, as a troubled youngster in Rotorua, could never have imagined. But even if the 23-year-old is an anomaly - genetic and otherwise - he's encouraging the kids in his camps to become aware of the opportunities that exist for players of all talent.

"My main thing in coming here for this camp is showing the kids that basketball is a fun sport to play, but also showing them that there's an opportunity there to use it as a vehicle, if they wish, to get a free degree and stuff like that. That's so good - it's such a good headstart in life.

"That's the main motivation behind it - it ain't like a high performance camp or anything like that. I invited some boys from the Oklahoma City Thunder and we're going to go teach kids high fives and make sure the enjoy the game, just keep the excitement up around it. And give them some free stuff."

Adams, along with the freebies, was undoubtedly the main attraction, but the presence of Thunder teammates Nick Collison and Andre Roberson exposed Kiwi kids to a calibre of athlete to which they were entirely unaccustomed. And Collison and Roberson were enjoying themselves, too, taking in some local culture and receive a first-hand account of what Adams is always preaching in the Oklahoma City locker room.

"We had a hangi yesterday at Rangitoto - that was mean. The boys enjoyed it, eh. They loved the land and everything like that. They're trying to get used to the raw fish but they'll come round to it. They really enjoyed the powhiri and the welcomings and stuff.

"They just find New Zealand people amazing in how respectful and how much they care about them being here. That's something that they're going to take away to America and really hold on to and remember about New Zealand - how the people really care."