OPINION: From Rotorua to Oklahoma City - via Wellington and Pittsburgh. It's not the usual path for a Kiwi sports star. Steven Adams' journey to the NBA has got to be one of the most remarkable stories in New Zealand sport.
His life so far reads like the script from an inspirational Hollywood movie.
The youngest of 18 children, Steven went off the rails after dad Sid died. A move to Wellington brought him back on track with Kenny McFadden, the director of a basketball academy in the city, taking him under his wing, picking him up every day before school for basketball practice each morning and night. Then a scholarship to Pittsburgh and his first taste of college hoops.
A surprise decision to make himself eligible for the NBA draft after just one year with the Panthers shocked a few people but it is now looking like a savvy move.
Adams charmed them in the pre-draft workouts with his humour and down-to-earth manner - he impressed coaches, talent scouts and managers with his skills on the court.
When he was selected on Friday as the 12th pick to go to the Thunder - and with it a healthy $2.3 million added to the bank balance - the first part of his incredible story was complete.
But if Adams follows the Hollywood script, the next part of his journey is where the real work begins. Cue sports montage of the 2.13m New Zealander sweating bucketloads during team practice, adjusting to life in Oklahoma City and battling it out in the D-League or similar to advance his chances of playing in the NBA.
Adams is a work in progress.
To take the next step, to complete the movie-like comparisons, he'll need to work harder than he ever has.
After all, he's competing in the best basketball league in the world where so many have fallen by the wayside.
The Thunder - with superstar Kevin Durant as the team's talisman - are the perfect fit for the Kiwi.
Last year we ran a story about how Oklahoma City were one of the most grounded franchises in the NBA. No late-night parties and celebrity hobnobbing for the Thunder players, more like poker and movie nights with team-mates.
Durant is the leader of the team and leads by example. The day after the Oklahoma tornado ripped through parts of the city in May, Durant pledged US$1 million for relief through his foundation, eager to help a devastated area begin to rebuild.
The final word goes to Adams in the days leading up to the draft.
"It's been fun, eh?" he said to a reporter like a wide-eyed kid on a first trip to Disneyland. "It's been awesome. It's not like I've done this before."
He's enjoying the ride. So will Kiwi sports fans as the Thunder are now officially New Zealand's favourite NBA team.
Long may it continue.
- Todd Murray is Fairfax Sundays sports editor
- Sunday News
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