Steven Adams returned to his locker, deep inside the bowels of Madison Square Garden, and had no idea his routine was about to be interrupted.

Having completed his on-court warm-up, the Oklahoma City Thunder center sunk into his seat, ready to enjoy his customary pre-game snack. A fruit platter is routine for Adams before NBA games.

The throng of media members that fill a star-studded Thunder locker room isn't new either. Former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook sits just metres away from Adams, as does five-time NBA All-Star Paul George. Westbrook and George are widely accepted as the Thunder's two leading men, although on this frigid New York morning, the chasing media pack is deferential towards the All-Star duo. They want Adams instead.

One-by-one, media members take turns approaching the 25-year-old New Zealander who, even in a league full of behemoths, sticks out with his gargantuan size. His distinct twang is called into action between momentary bites of watermelon.


A first reporter asks Adams about the toilet habits of NBA players – yes, this actually happened; NBA locker rooms are prone to peculiar topics. A second reporter gets serious and asks about the intricacies of NBA defence, with Adams' role defending the pick-and-roll being the focus. Finally a third reporter trundles over, this time with a familiar accent, to discuss what life as an NBA athlete is actually like.

Paul George and Steven Adams defend Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert. Photo / Getty Images
Paul George and Steven Adams defend Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert. Photo / Getty Images

"You turn a bit bougie," says Adams.

Come again? "Just super bougie," Adams reinforces later.

Yes, bougie – or boo-gee as it sounds through Adams' unmistakable Kiwi accent - as in fancy, extravagant and elaborate. This isn't exactly the first descriptor that comes to mind when you visualise the 2.13m, 120kg Adams. With his wild mop of hair, gruff beard and tattooed body, Adams is a walking representation of blue collar, albeit operating in a professional world of extravagance.

"It's just one of those things where I try to give myself reality checks," Adams said of life in the NBA. "But you just can't help it."

Even for the most grounded of athletes, the NBA universe will frequently provide moments of wonder. To better understand the context, consider the preceding 48 hours in the life of Adams as he sat inside the world's most famous sporting arena.

Two days earlier, he led the Thunder to victory over Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid, a contender for league MVP this season, is one of the toughest covers in the NBA and Adams was charged with slowing him.

"You always have to be kind of locked in and it kind of fatigues you out like that," Adams said of defending Embiid.


At approximately 7pm local time, a weary Adams stood in the Thunder's locker room at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to address the media and provided a post mortem of the Embiid encounter. His working day was done but there was more important business to be had. Westbrook knew it and was politely nudging Adams onto the team bus.

Oklahoma City's leader had already forgotten about his personal battle with Embiid and was imploring Adams to do likewise. "Who you picking in the fight tonight?" Westbrook repeatedly barked at Adams. The Thunder had plans for a rare Saturday night off and they had a new city in their sights.

By 10pm, Adams was cageside at UFC Fight Night in Brooklyn, along with Westbrook and half the Oklahoma City roster. Thunder players rubbed shoulders with luminaries from the entertainment world. It was Adams' first time attending a UFC event and this provided another one of those extravagant moments.

"The atmosphere was bloody amazing," Adams explained. "The UFC do a really good job in terms of entertainment. Just the whole set up… it was solid, aye. It was good stuff. Really good stuff."

As a six-year NBA veteran, the madness has become familiar for Adams. There is no choice but to adapt and contextualise the rapid lifestyle. As crazy as it sounds, following up a basketball game with an illustrious event – such as a star-studded UFC extravaganza – is simply the way of the NBA. An 82-game NBA season doesn't provide much respite, as evidenced by Adams' quick jaunt to America's northeast.

Saturday afternoon brought a game against an NBA All-Star. Saturday night was spent gallivanting around the biggest city on earth. Sunday contained with a mandatory team practice, while Monday gave Adams his encounter with a swarming media pack.

Four cities in three days, two games, multiple interview requests and a constant spotlight; it's a lifestyle not many know. In fact, many would call Adams' whirlwind weekend the trip of a lifetime, although it's just another week for the NBA star.

"The NBA is very busy and there is a lot going on," says Adams. "You don't even go by days of the week any more. You just go by either game days or practice days. That's basically it, mate. It's a gruelling season."

Steven Adams has developed into an important part of the Oklahoma City Thunder's game plan. Photo / Getty Images
Steven Adams has developed into an important part of the Oklahoma City Thunder's game plan. Photo / Getty Images

In the midst of an NBA season, there is no time for dwelling on any one result, or any one event for that matter. Still, Adams has maintained his jovial perspective. After all these years, he remains appreciative of the gifts on offer.

"On top of all the work, it's really good and it truly is amazing stuff,' Adams said. "You fly in private planes and you get to see different parts of America.

"Even though you may only spend one day in that city, you still get to travel to different parts of America. Yeah, bro, it's a good time."

On the basketball court, Adams had a successful time in New York. The Thunder romped to a resounding victory over the Knicks to close out their road trip undefeated.

Their reward, if you can call it that, was an immediate trip to the airport for a four-hour flight back to Oklahoma City, ahead of a showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers the following day. Just as Adams had done hours earlier to evade the media, his team was moving onto the next challenge.

"That's it, I'm outta here," Adams said through a smile, after reminiscing about his NBA experiences. He took what was left of his fruit and disappeared into the Thunder's medical room. He had business to take care of.