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The $100 million man: is Steven Adams really worth his giant pay rise?

Tuesday 1st November 2016

Allow us to explain.


Image: Katie Parker

Why exactly is everyone talking about Steven Adams?

How about we start by asking you a question: did you get the pay rise you wanted this year? Steven Adams just did. Ahead of the official deadline, the Oklahoma City Thunder centre has reportedly locked in a contract extension for US$100 million (NZ$140 million) over the next four years. (He’s currently earning about US$2.8 million this season.) The jump will see him become the highest paid New Zealand athlete in history. 

In other words, brace yourself for more insane no-look passes like this:

Or something straight out of your favourite quarterback’s playbook:

OK, so how did we get here?

With former MVP Kevin Durant joining his ex-rivals, OKC have gone all in on their core of Russell Westbrook (who inked an extension of his own for US$85.7 million over three years), Victor Oladipo (four years, US$84 million) and now Adams. Both Oladipo and Adams were drafted as part of the 2013 class and were eligible for extensions if they were signed before the November 1st deadline.

This may seem like a tonne of money, but it will actually work out in OKC’s favour long-term. The extensions mean that Oladipo and Adams won’t enter restricted free agency at the end of the season, so OKC won’t have to match any offers for max deals from other teams. Oladipo’s contract is approximately US$21 million less than a max deal he might’ve been offered elsewhere, while Adams’ is US$4 million under the max number. OKC will now be able to use that spare dosh to chase another star (Blake Griffin?) to round off the team.

But is he worth it?

If anything, the Thunder are using the contract extension as a means to establish Adams as a franchise cornerstone for the next few years. They see him making another leap, which is encouraging. Russell Westbrook’s post-Durant revenge tour is well underway (he’s averaging 38.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 11.7 assists over his first three games of the season and isn’t about to slow down) and Adams is his perfect running mate to help torch anyone that gets in their way.

Also, this: Adams was recently asked about whether he feels like a wily veteran now even though he’s only four years into his NBA career. His reply: “I feel like a father, so congratulations to me.”

Seriously, what’s not to love about this team?

What happens next?

The Thunder face-off against the Warriors this Friday, which may result in the very real possibility of someone getting seriously hurt. But whatever Adams is doing right now, let’s just hope that it involves some sort of JR Smith-level celebrating: shirt off, a pit stop in Las Vegas, holding random children up to the sky like Rafiki in The Lion King. Either that, or he’s busy recreating the cover of Brewster’s Millions.

That seems unlikely.

It really does. To be honest, he’s probably too busy watching anime again.


Join the discussion »

“Hmm, I think your sums may be wrong in terms of the cap. Adding Adams and Oladipo's big contracts to the massive Westbrook and Kanter ones means the Thunder won't have much left over to spend on free agents. Especially a max deal guy like Blake Griffin. You'd think they'd need to trade Kanter, if they want to add another big name.” — Cool Hand Luke

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Hussein is a writer and former editor of
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