It's a surprise Steven Adams can still jump high enough to dunk a basketball given the size of the chip on his shoulder.
New Zealand's greatest hoops export continues to blank Basketball New Zealand – refusing to turn out for the Tall Blacks despite BBNZ prostrating themselves at his size 18s.
According to those close to him it's all to do with a grudge dating back years. Let's park that for a minute. If it's not a grudge, the other options are that he's got no balls, or no heart.
No balls? Seems unlikely. Some have naively suggested Adams is in a club-country tug of war. It's unlikely that one of toughest, meanest, most individual players in the NBA would let the Oklahoma City Thunder stop him playing for New Zealand in the coming World Cup in China.
We've seen that with British football clubs in the past, when they've leant on players to be "unavailable" for the All Whites. But it doesn't make any sense for OKC or the NBA to stop Adams playing. The NBA is trying to build a global game – and look at the all the other international stars turning out for their countries. All the Aussies will be there as will Greek sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo. So, no, Adams is not being held back.
No heart? Or rather no love in his heart for New Zealand? No love for all the kids – all the fans – who look up to him and dearly want him to turn out for his country of birth? To don a black singlet, perform a haka, make us proud – how could anyone not want to do that? And Adams has previously professed his love for New Zealand and his desire to represent his country, one day. The fact he wants to go the Olympics proves it means something to him. So, no, he loves New Zealand.
What does that leave us with? This decade-long grudge, going back to 2009 when he couldn't represent the Junior Tall Blacks because he couldn't afford it and BBNZ couldn't help him out.
Adams is still a young man – just 25 – and has plenty of time to gather wisdom and to learn the gift of forgiveness.
Right now, it's a little unbecoming for a multi-millionaire to be making a point about a few thousand dollars 10 years ago. Sure it hurt him at the time but he's risen above that and proved that growing up poor at the bottom corner of the world is no barrier to international fame, success and wealth.
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His is an inspirational story and it's one he could continue to share with young Kiwi kids running the floor in gyms from Otara to Outram – maybe kids whose own poverty means they can't even afford to buy Adams' book. You can tell a story in more ways than one.
Adams' continued cold-shouldering of his country comes at a time when Tall Blacks star Corey Webster is copping an online beating for his tweets about the lack of funding given to NZ hoops.
Big ups to all those doing well in their respective sports, but I feel we should be moving with the times..... if the most kids are now playing basketball then it should be getting more funding then these other sports. If majority of kids are playing but there’s no funding— Corey Webster (@cwebster9) June 19, 2019
Webster has been accused of unfairly dissing other sports to make his point.
Takes deep breath.— Scotty Stevenson (@sumostevenson) June 19, 2019
Corey, you’re just plain wrong. Basketball NZ was allocated $1.77mil in community funding from Sport NZ over last three years.
That’s more than any other sport
Rugby League ($1.92mil)
I’m here all week. https://t.co/id0wUVHFpb
Maybe so. But at least Webster cares, which is more than you can say about Adams at this point.
The irony is Webster's argument is directly related to the reasons Adams is apparently disenchanted with the establishment here. What happened to Adams as a junior is a systemic problem of funding (particularly high performance versus grass roots and the whole rich-get-richer obsession with Olympic medals). If Adams and Webster got together in a team environment, they might come up with some solutions.
Adams has already done heaps for the profile of basketball in this country – he's an inspiration, an idol – but he could do so much in the long-term to change the paradigm for impoverished kids; to make sure others are not denied as he was. But that would require him to be involved, to be part of the system rather than actively resisting.
Just his presence in the national team would do so much to help NZ hoops jump to a new level – he would help deliver on-court success, perhaps even that Olympic place he so desires. With the Olympics and a good performance comes more money, and more opportunity for others.
Steven Adams can change basketball in New Zealand but first he needs to change himself. He could start by dropping the rock of resentment that's anchored him in the past.