He’s worth an estimated $27.2 million but the experience that Steven Adams brought to Invercargill for 300 young basketballers was priceless.
The NBA superstar for the Oklahoma City Thunder held his first of three national training camps at ILT Stadium Southland last week as part of Sports Pathways Trust programme.
The programme helps bring aspiring young athletes in contact with Adams to learn skills in a series of drills and activities, as well as bring a separate classroom to regions to help engage students in everyday life practices such as respect and good manners.
Sports Pathways Trust trustee Zak Lassey said the camps were all about the children having a good time and getting involved in basketball.
He said they had received huge support from the Southland basketball community and were excited to be able to bring the event to the region for the first time.
Oklahoma City Thunder vice president of communications Dan Mahoney travelled with Adams to the event, and said he enjoyed coming to New Zealand to see young people get a chance to learn from a sporting superstar.
He said the skills Adams brought with him were priceless to the next generation of possible NBA players around the world.
“We see it all the time with our players the impact that they can have, particularly with kids. Just obviously teaching basketball skills but more than anything just a love and passion for the game.”
Mahoney said Adams was constantly talking up New Zealand in Oklahoma.
“When he is at home in Oklahoma City he is telling everybody about New Zealand. Each year he brings people from the team, one of our assistant coaches is here, I’ve come, our head coach has come before, other players have come before and it’s because they hear Steven talk all year about how much he loves New Zealand. So they come and see it for themselves and they learn what he already knew, how special the place is and how special the people are.”
Southland Basketball Association general manager Jill Bolger said having Adams in the region was a huge coup.
She said the free tickets to the camp were exhausted in 90 minutes.
“I think it’s always a coup when you get a big event in Southland but especially around an international superstar like Steven and I guess it’s some kudos to our organisation that he thinks we’re good enough to host him so we’re very grateful that they made the decision.”
Bolger was even confident the visit might sway him to return in the future and pull on a Southland Sharks jersey one day.
“We haven’t actually got to that yet but I’m sure by the end of the day there will be a casual conversation had in that regard,” she said.
This article was originally written for The Advocate. You can read the published version here