Read, Dixon close but Adams is the man of 2013
OPINION: The easy call would have been to give this to Kieran Read or maybe Scott Dixon. They've both had fabulous sporting years and made telling contributions on the international sporting scene.
Read was immense for the All Blacks through their historic 14-0 perfect year and has now become, unquestionably, the premier rugby player on the planet. His game in 2013 rose to new heights as he unleashed some spectacular ball distribution skills to go with his trademark high workrate, withering defence, strong ball-carrying and lineout prowess.
The powerful No 8 was a big, big part of why the All Blacks touched perfection in 2013, and it was notable that there he was making repeat bullocking runs in the final minute of the team's "Great Escape" in Dublin that crowned the history-making campaign.
Dixon, too, dominated his sport - IndyCar racing in the United States - joining an elite group of three drivers to have claimed the prestigious championship for a third time. He stormed home, too, coming from seventh, and 72 points behind eventual runner-up Helio Castroneves, after the 10th race of the year, winning four of the last nine events.
Others, too, were worthy of consideration. Aaron Gate (cycling), Andrew Nicholson (three-day eventing) and Peter Michael (speed skating) won world titles, or the equivalent thereof, and Sonny Bill Williams had a pretty spectacular rugby league season.
But what we at the Star-Times liked about Adams was the impact he's made on his sport, on his country and on one of the world's biggest sporting leagues.
Sure, he hasn't run up dazzling numbers, made All-Rookie selections, or been part of any championships just yet. But it's early days, and we reckon the accolades and accomplishments will flow in good time.
What we really like about this, the 18th, and youngest, member of the remarkable extended Adams family is the ease with which he has made the transition to the NBA, the seemingly unflappable nature of his character, his cold, hard determination to find a niche in one of the league's premier teams, and also the unique Kiwi character of a young man clearly proud of where he comes from.
So many New Zealanders have been captivated by this young man's storybook journey to the NBA, and he is without question putting our little hoops nation on the map as he continues to impress seasoned observers of the sport stateside.
Remember the draft? For the first time New Zealand took a fully vested interest in this peculiarly American event. And what a thrill it was when our man's name was read out as the No 12 pick overall, by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He could not have found a better home if he'd hand-picked it.
From there, the story has been of fairytale proportions. Adams excelled in the summer league and then pre-season. He confounded predictions he'd be headed to the D-league to work on his game, and emerged from the off as part of coach Scott Brooks' rotation.
What a job he's done, too, making a huge impact with his rebounding, defence, energy, screens and with his sheer toughness. Already he's developed a cast-iron reputation as a hard-nosed type who gets under people's skins.
Adams isn't just a big man - at 2.13m, with a massive wingspan, huge hands and rare athleticism he is a physical phenomenon - but a fairly large character too.
That's what we like about him. He is who he is, and it does not seem like playing alongside some of the biggest superstars in sport is going to change him. We applaud that.
Sometimes when our basketballers "make it" in the US, there is an unhealthy keenness to fit into a stereotype. American accents suddenly appear, swaggers develop, vernaculars are adopted and a fairly homogenised product ensues.
What's been refreshing about Adams' emergence as a bone fide NBA player has been the unashamed Kiwi character that's shone through. His team-mates love him for it, as do his coaches, fans and media.
We love the fact a New Zealander has finally cracked the big time of the NBA. But we cherish it even more that he's doing it in true Kiwi style.
- Sunday Star Times
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