Why Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder Is the Toughest Player in the NBA

Jon Wu@jonwu190Contributor IIIJanuary 30, 2014

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So far this season, 22 players have gotten warnings for flopping. Steven Adams is not one of those players. 

Nor does he even react when getting punched in the torso or elbowed in the face four separate times this season (including preseason). Just ask Nate Robinson, Vince Carter, Jordan Hamilton and Larry Sanders.


Nate Robinson Punch:

Vince Carter Elbow:

Jordan Hamilton Punch:

Larry Sanders Elbow:

They all don’t even look angry after winding up and hitting Adams. They just looked genuinely confused at why he doesn’t even acknowledge them.

It’s almost as if he doesn’t notice that he just got hit hard. Maybe he really doesn’t. As part of the trade that sent fellow elbowed player James Harden to the Houston Rockets, shooting guard Jeremy Lamb discussed the Carter elbow with Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports:

I saw it on the replay and said, ‘Goodness.' Looked (at him) and I said, ‘Did that hurt?' He said, ‘What?' I said, ‘the elbow, did it hurt?' He was like, ‘Not really.' So he's a real tough kid.

Apparently he doesn’t feel any pain.

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He’s a center who isn’t afraid to play physical. As a 7-footer standing at 255 pounds, he plays like a big man true to his size.

What’s surprising is that basketball wasn’t even his first sport. Instead, he grew up playing rugby.

Born in New Zealand, he was the youngest of 18 siblings. And these were not any normal brothers and sisters.

In a spotlight by Max Rappaport of Sixers.com on Adams' background, his siblings are described as the following:

On average, the males in the Adams clan stand about 6’10”, and the women, 6’5”. Six of Steven’s brothers have played for New Zealand’s national basketball team and his half-sister, Valerie Kasanita Vili-Adams, is a 2008 Olympic champion and a three-time world champion in shot put.


As the youngest, Adams cited that he often took hits from his rough siblings growing up. Imagine any tussles you had with one of your brothers or sisters. Now imagine that your sibling was over 6'0" with at least 200 pounds of muscle. Now imagine 17 of them. 

Mix all of that together and you end up with one of the toughest and most physical players in the NBA.

AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Fernando Salazar

Even though he only averages 15.2 minutes a game, he grabs an astounding 2.1 offensive rebounds in that timeframe. Despite all of this physical play, he’s only had one technical foul and zero flagrants.

The bottom line is that Adams adds an aura of roughness to the Thunder that really helps out the “KD is Not Nice" campaign.

Because we all know that Steven Adams isn’t nice. But he sure is tough.