Aotearoa is currently hooping in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, but with one famous, bearded, 6 ft 11 and 120 kg absentee - Steven Adams.
This year, his absence comes down to a knee injury he suffered in January. For the previous decade-plus, however, Steve never suited up because of money and morals.
As a young baller in NZ, he was unable to play for the national team as he couldn’t afford it. From there, Basketball New Zealand were down their only active NBA player thanks to him holding a grudge.
“To represent New Zealand as a young athlete costs a lot of money, not just in basketball but in all sports,” Steve wrote in his 2018 autobiography ‘Steven Adams: My Fight, My Life’.
“There were a lot of players, most of them brown, some of them the best in the country, who never once represented New Zealand because they couldn’t afford to trial, let alone to fly overseas.”
Because of this, he “doesn’t have a great sense of loyalty to Basketball New Zealand” but does want Aotearoa to be a basketball heavyweight.
“Some might expect me to be the Basketball New Zealand poster child,” he added. “But I did the opposite of rising through the ranks of the junior national teams. Being in a national team is far too expensive for most kids — me included.”
“We have the talent in New Zealand, there’s no doubt about that, we just need the systems and pathways in place so that kids can stay on track and not lose out because they’re poor or live in the wrong city."
“If I have my way, New Zealand will be a basketball nation among the best in the world before I die. That’s the kind of legacy I want to help build.”
Pero Cameron, the current Tall Blacks coach, told 1News earlier this year that tensions between Steve and Basketball NZ have eased and talks between the two had been “positive”.
That suggests Steve will don the black jersey one day, forgiving the organisation that priced him out of international play.