24 Nov 2020

James Nokise: New Orleans a better fit for Steven Adams

4:04 pm on 24 November 2020

Opinion - Steven Adams has been traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, bringing to an end that city's era of contending for NBA championships, and finalising a team rebuild for the foreseeable future.

Steven Adamsof the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during a opening night game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 23, 2019.

Steven Adams in court with the Oklahoma City Thunder during a opening night game against the Utah Jazz in 2019. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

If you don't follow the NBA, and only know about basketball because of Steven Adams, or only know him as "Valerie's kid brother", lets quickly re-cap on the basketball mythos he's built up over seven years.

He's known affectionately in the United States as 'Big Kiwi' or 'Aquaman' thanks to being mistaken for Jason Momoa (known in Rotorua as the "Hawaiian Steven Adams").

He is consistently ranked as the strongest player in the NBA, and Kiwi fans have delighted at American commentators discovering that his sister is both stronger, and also an actual Dame.

His 'unique' accent (a regular Kiwi accent) and chilled-out comedic persona (regular Kiwi humour) has led to him fronting ad campaigns for Oklahoma Beef and Budweiser.

He somehow made giant moustaches cool in professional basketball.

He was believed to have genuine balls of steel after receiving "accidental" kicks to the groin during the 2016 Western Conference Finals and shrugging them off to keep playing, a technique known in New Zealand as The Buck.

His two most famous teammates, Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook, both thanked him in their MVP speeches. In fact Westbrook, who famously became only the second player to average a triple double in a season, should engrave on his award 'Steven Adams let me get rebounds'.

He is currently on a four-year contract worth $US100 million. That's 10 central Auckland rental properties or half a Peter Jackson film.

He is one of the most beloved players in Oklahoma basketball history. A few blocks from the Chesapeake Arena, a huge mural of Adams (painted by NZ artist Graham Hoete) decorates the side of a building. To date, there are no murals of Ma'a Nonu in Wellington, but there is one of David Bowie because ... Wellington.

Mural of Steven Adams by Graham Hoete.

Photo: Supplied / Facebook

So the first chapter of New Zealand's greatest NBA player has ended.

His new team is the New Orleans Pelicans. If you're wondering what being traded from Oklahoma to New Orleans is like, imagine being traded from Morrinsville to Wellington, except New Orleans is (respectfully) way, way cooler than Wellington, and Oklahoma makes Morrinsville look like Wellington.

Oklahoma is the NBA's most boring city. Before you challenge me on that, know that the largest weekend event in Oklahoma is the "Norman Medieval Fair". A movie in New Orleans will have jazz, a Mardi Gras, crime and sex. A movie in Oklahoma will be slow, contemplative, or a musical with slow contemplative singing about corn.

If New Zealand fans are truly honest, most of them after seven years of cheering for Steven Adams still have absolutely no idea where Oklahoma is. But many of those fans have watched several seasons of NCIS: New Orleans despite the fact it is, and will always be, the worst NCIS.

New Orleans feels exciting, and so does its basketball team, led by 20-year-old superstar Zion Williamson. An Adams/Williams front court will simply be too fast and powerful for many teams because people forget Steven Adams is only 27. That may make readers over 30 question their life choices, but 27 is the perfect age to wind up living in The Big Easy. Unless you're a musician, in which case just make sure you get to 28.

Will New Zealanders wearing New Orleans singlets en masse make tourists think we can't read? Sure. But for now, get ready to cheer Steven Adams' second chapter, this time with a jazzier soundtrack.

* James Nokise is a Billy T Award-shortlisted New Zealand comedian, and a 30-year fan of the NBA.

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