I decided to call NBA star Steven Adams
Because in my opinion, his attitude to life is what we need right now.
One of the joys of living in New Zealand is that you end up sort of knowing everyone here, so the fact I could ask an NBA player to take part in my tiny newsletter somehow becomes a possibility.
I wanted to talk to Steven Adams for Webworm because to be honest, the world has been getting me down a bit lately. I feel myself grumpy, mopey and — dare I say it — emo.
But then a week or so ago I saw a press conference where a reporter asked Steven what it was like being on lockdown with his fellow NBA players at Disney World, so which he replied:
“Let’s be clear, mate: this is not Syria, mate. It’s not that hard. It’s not that difficult. We’re living in a bloody resort.”
And I just thought to myself “what a fucking wonderful response.” He could have easily had a moan about what it was like to be on lockdown, not able to see certain family and friends — but he had perspective. He wasn’t in Syria. He was in fucking Disney World.
I wanted some more of that outlook in my life — which is why I reached out to him.
“Legit! Like, one dude punched me in the face, one dude elbowed me. And I wouldn’t react, and I didn’t have to try and hold anything in! It was just a normal kiwi thing.”
More from our chat soon, but basically what I find so utterly enthralling about this particular NBA star (apart from his above average basketball skills) is his attitude to life.
His attitude to being punched in the face.
Because it feels like all 2020 is a bit like being punched in the face over and over again, right?
In the midst of the punches, Steven Adams has balance, perspective and sanity.
And when he’s not playing in the NBA, he plays PUBG! I’m very down with this.
Somehow, Steve’s remained wonderfully grounded, and always full of humour: when asked about basketball, he’s more likely to just talk about his dog:
The only problem with me talking to an NBA star is that I don’t really know anything about the NBA or basketball.
I played a lot of NBA Jam in the 90s, but beyond that, I’m a basketball imbecile.
I did a quick Googled “Steven Adams” to get some inspiration for questions in case the conversation ran out of steam due to my incompetence…
… but decided those questions sucked. I did a bit more reading, and discovered that over 20 NBA teams (including the Oklahoma City Thunder) are locked up at Disney World in Florida, where they are all training and playing games against each other right now.
The idea is that as Florida continues to immersed in hellscape of COVID-19 cases, the basketball players are in a protective bubble.
I suppose Disney World in Florida is a little like New Zealand is to the rest of the world right now: a virus free utopia.
So, here’s our chat. He’s cool. I hope you like him as much as I do.
Steven, how are you?
Good brother. [indecipherable noises]
What time is it there, what is going on?
Sorry bro, just woke up from my fucking nap [muffled laughter]. It is — 6 o’clock in the arvo, mate.
Sorry you had to wake up, I feel bad about this. Oh God.
Nah, I was meant to get out, I don’t usually nap, I was just fuckin’ tired. This bubble, man! This bubble gets to you, bro, shit! Fuck!
I am a big fan of naps, so I understand where you’re coming from. And you’re busy, you know? The NBA and that. Look, this is a little newsletter I send out to people who follow what I do. And I am sure they are not all giant basketball fans, but the fact is you’re the only athlete I follow because your attitude is just so refreshing and so I really wanted to talk to you for this thing.
Oh yeah? Thanks for that.
I just think your attitude is so rare from people in your field, and I am curious if you are thinking about that ever, or if it’s just you, unfiltered and unaffected by this crazy PR machine that must be around you.
Yeah, it’s probably just me!
And I get away with a lot of things, just because I am not American. So I can’t really mess anything up, you know what I mean?
Our accent is our superpower. It saves us.
100%. If Americans said most the stuff that I said they would be in a lot of trouble, they really would. They really would.
I found that when I was making Dark Tourist, because I said things in this accent it either goes over people’s heads or they don’t know you’re joking…
Yeah. There is no real threat from in any shape, right? They don’t feel threatened. It’s bizarre. I 100% agree with you.
It’s strange, man.
And how does that translate into basketball, because a big part of that is being aggressive. So is your carefree thing sometimes tricky to deal with when you are in a sport where you are meant to be aggressive? Or is it two things - like you have a press conference, and then the game.
It’s definitely the same. It works the same on the court as well. I can say that.
It’s just one of those normal things. I think back to my rookie season, my first year in the league, for some reason a lot of the players didn’t like me because of how physical I was.
And they would just elbow me! Legit like, one dude punched me in the face, one dude elbowed me. And I wouldn’t react, and I didn’t have to try and hold anything in! It was just a normal kiwi thing!
Like, dude hit me and it was illegal and I was like “Oh, you know… he is about to be punished!” you know? “That’s unfortunate, mate!”
I didn’t feel like “oh, this guy is disrespecting me —” I didn’t think any of that, I was just like “Eh, that’s unfortunate for you mate, you’ve just put your team in a tough position.”
So I guess it does translate over both ways. I don’t care either way! [laughter] Which is such a kiwi thing.
Absolutely. And that’s the thing, you care about the game or whatever you are doing, of course — but you just don’t care about the bullshit that goes with it. And with you there must be so much bullshit that goes with it, right?
Oh bro, there is. The vast majority is bullshit that goes with it. And it seeps into all sectors of this thing. And it’s actually quite sad. There is a lot of sad parts to it, right? But mate - I dunno - mate.
Do you have friends out of that world, like the world of basketball, or is it just all encompassing?
Yeah, it’s all encompassing bro.
There is not too much time you get to unwind, and even when you do, because when you try and get “normal” friends outside of it, you just talk about basketball anyway.
Unless you have your friends from home, friends you can talk about anything else other than fuckin’ what you’re doing.
And that’s not just basketball, even if you talk to some CEOs or some shit, some well known company, they don’t want to go do dinner and you just talk about that company all the fuckin’ time!
Like, who gives a fuck!
They just want you to chill out and go, “oh shit yeah I watched Netflix the other —” you know, just be normal. Fuck!
You are also in that same sphere as some musician who has suddenly gotten to a certain point of fame, where they kinda have to hang out with people who do the same thing as they do… because they understand what they’re going through. So anyone new you meet now, there is a good chance they will just be a fan…
Yeah. There is a bit of that for you too, right? Because you are out in the public?
A tiny bit sometimes… lots of people wanting to know how to get a pitch meeting at Netflix and stuff!
Just random people that just pop up out of nowhere like, “oh!”
You are trying to figure out what their agenda is, because they didn’t give a fuck about you before!
And they never messaged you before, and then out of nowhere they pop out of the woods and are like “hi!”
There is always something. It’s never “how are you”, it’s “how are you — and…” [laughter].
My newsletter focusses a lot on how mad the world is and trying to make sense of it in some small way. How do you process everything that is going on with the States? Because right now you are trapped in Disney World, which is quite funny. What is your attitude to being in America and not just screaming at the sky all the time?
Yeah, you almost have to ignore it, but… not really.
Because it is one of those joints where you cannot control it whatsoever, bro.
Because this place… any player here, the only thing you can do now is follow orders. Like, “get in line mate, and just follow!”
It’s real negative mate, it’s tough. There’s a bunch of negative news every single day, just constant: “We have a new record of corona cases! Holy shit!”
And it’s literally just outside the bubble: “Florida breaks record!!!” and I’m like “I’m in Florida! Well, shit!”
Yeah I see Mitch McConnell is in a facemask now, finally, after months of being told facemasks are important…
That’s one of the biggest problems I find that I have seen.
A lot of them are not very compliant. At all. Whatsoever.
And so whenever rules come out from the authorities, there is going to be a lot of people who will not follow suit.
Say, New Zealand was very compliant. And a lot of the countries in Asia. They don’t want to go against what the rules are. It’s different!
I think it’s just selfishness. Like, “I am going to do what I am going to do and I don’t care how it’s going to effect other people.” I think that bleeds into it a little.
I don’t know if you’ve dealt with American tourists while you’ve been a tourist yourself, but fuck me! It’s fucking shocking.
And you are looking at them going “bro!”
They get mad at the person who can’t speak english, but it’s not even an english speaking country! You’re like looking at them like, “bro, what the fuck?!”
Hoooo yes. Agreed. Look, um, are you watching or listening to anything interesting at the moment?
I’ve enrolled in a couple of classes at Massey.
So I just did Agribusiness. So just doing a coupe of papers there.
I want to start bloody cracking away at that. We got the bloody time! But it’s not a full on course, I am just doing a few papers to see what the workload is, and if I have the attention span for it.
Is that like prepping for the future, or just exercising your brain outside of basketball and being really fucking good at a sport?
Yeah, I think it’s a bit of both.
It’s definitely because, thing is, I am an athlete — your golden ages are like 20 to 28. Your years are not long!
My contract is up next year, and obviously I am going to try and get another one, but after that it’s like, “bro, oh man —”
I wanna at least try and get into something else.
Because it’s gonna be really tough to walk away from basketball, especially this level just because the stimulus is so high. So high. Every second day, bro it’s like you are an adrenaline junkie at that point.
So I have to figure something out that puts a little bit of lead in the pencil!
And you don’t wanna go insane when you stop doing that. It’s like Neil Armstrong going to the moon. He gets back to earth and he’s like, “fuck, how do I possibly get excited about this here on earth when I’ve been up there!”
Yeah man, so some sort of purpose afterwards. So that’s what the joint is.
And it’s that and also I also have a farm, in New Zealand. Yeah. It’s cool. A dairy farm, about 400 cows. I have only had it for a year now. So I’ve had one season. That is where I was during COVID, after this shit all happened.
Just went straight back to the farm and started working there and it was awesome.
Fuck yeah, I find that stuff really, really cool. So that’s what the Agribusiness joint is for. That is what I have been doing with my time outside of this.
And playing a bit of guitar here and there bro. Hangin’ out.
What have you been playing?
I have been teaching my teammates some songs.
Because we have been hanging out by the pool a few times and that is where I take the guitar and some of the school work. Yeah, just start jamming. I just gotta teach then “Ten Guitars” bro!
And teach them some New Zealand songs aye! So good!
Hmm have you seen Uncut Gems, the film?
Nah, what is that?
It’s Adam Sandler. It’s absolute chaos. They did this thing where they cast Kevin Garnett, and he plays himself, but it is set — Adam Sandler is this adrenaline junkie gambler, and he puts this bet on this giant Kevin Garnett game.
And the film is set in 2012 when this iconic game happened, and they have The Weeknd in it and he’s playing himself as he was at that time in his life, playing himself back in 2012.
And this is probably not such a fun thought experiment if you haven’t seen the film, but if you were going to visit an iconic or interesting time in your own career — what you would explore if you were in a film playing you?
It would probably be when I got drafted.
That was sick.
And that is just because the lead-up to it was pretty cool and I was just posting on Facebook the whole time and videos and updates, and then I got drafted and it felt like the whole of New Zealand was literally right there!
And everyone was sending me videos, and this school — they shut off all the classes just to watch the draft! Everything stopped, they skipped class to watch the draft. It was fucking cool!
And knowing your whole life is going to change.
That was probably the proudest moments — the vast majority of support from New Zealand. And then you go back, and everyone is just normal and I like that.
It’s not like America where they hold athletes far too high here.
I don’t know much about New Zealand media and I don’t follow it much, but over here they will get your political stance on shit, and what do you think about this catastrophe, and I am looking at these guys and it’s like, “They just play basketball, mate!”
As sad as it was, and I know athletes, and to be fair there are a lot of us that want to do other things and that’s great.
But mate — there are a lot of moving parts mate, that you have no idea about! And you have to be okay with that! And it’s fine! There’s nothing wrong with just being an athlete, that is what you are really good at. But if you’re going to ask about the economy or something like, “Come on!”
Yes it’s very funny that when there is a big political issue or something, the first person we want to hear from is a celebrity. It’s very weird. Instead of a scientist, or a doctor, or someone who knows a thing. It’s unusual and super weird.
I still don’t get that aye.
And that’s how I answer it, too, Because they ask me about it and I just tell them, “Well, from a dude who knows absolutely fuck all, I’ll tell you my thoughts! Here’s my opinion!”
And again it’s like, because of your New Zealand approach, everyone kinda gets what you are saying, Like yes, this is a bit ridiculous.
Yeah, and then you are at the point where some players play into it a bit and they hold their opinions really, really high.
And you know, they play the part. I start laughing at them, like, “come on mate, you’re talking out your arse! You really don’t know!”
But they really believe their spin is gospel shit, you know what I mean?
Well yeah it’s that thing where at your level, everyone is just around you telling you you’re hot shit and listening to everything you say, right?
And what gets me is that the — they find it hard to admit they don’t know something. But you know, it’s a perfectly normal thing: you don’t know everything!
Do you find that the press you deal with are trying to get that one grab out of you that is controversial and they can plaster in a headline?
From my experience they come to me when they need something funny.
So like, whenever they need a bit of a lightened up thing. I don’t give them much. And I tell me PR people this! “I can answer their questions and I will not say anything at all. The word count is high. It is top! But I have not said anything!”
That’s kind of amazing. They will love you for that.
And again, it’s the accent. That’s the thing.
And you throw in “mate” and like the funny joint is, the funny thing is, why I say “mate” a lot, is that you know the meaning of “mate” in New Zealand and how it’s like, you usually say it when you are not on good terms with other people [laughter].
It’s not like you’re saying “Oh hey mate!” like they’re your friends, you’re just: “Hey… mate.”
They don’t understand it there!
They don’t understand it! It’s like “oh well, yeah mate!” So I say it a lot because it’s like, “oh well, sorry mate, I don’t value you in my circle, so you’re gonna be a mate!”
I love that. You can subtly troll… but in a lighthearted way…
And it’s just keeps things entertaining for you, because I am sure those press conferences must get pretty mind- numbingly similar at times
Definitely is mate.
Oh I meant “mate!” Oh sorry I was in PR mode! [laughter]
Fuck you man!
“What the fuck you say to me bitch!” [laughter] “Don’t ever call me fucking mate!”
Nah, I think it’s funny just for the boys back home. They tend to laugh at those things a lot.
It is one of those things that is a joke thing but with the whole country. It’s pretty cool, so I like it.
God, I dig Steven Adams. He’s great.
He’s about a decade younger than I am, and will be under insane amounts of pressure daily — and he’s the chillest guy I know.
Those last few answers of Steven’s all come down to his tone, so if you want to learn about the nuance of the word “mate” here in New Zealand, here’s a bit of audio from that part of our convo:
(Hell, maybe this convo should have been a podcast! I’ll get moving on that for Webworm at some stage, I promise!)
My takeaways from our convo: Don’t take life too seriously. Remember you don’t need to know everything. You can’t do everything. Just try to be good at the thing you can do, and be content with that. And just remember to laugh, mate.
I hope you’re having a good week. You deserve it. And I hope this wonderful New Zealand dude called Steven Adams brought you a little joy, or at least a small lol.
Maybe, like me, you’ve found a new sports dude to follow.
Talk soon. Feel free to tell your friends about Webworm. I feel so happy with the lil’ audience I write for, and if anyone else wants to join in, then choice.
Coming up: a weird new exercise craze I am trying to make sense of (it might be a cult), more conspiracy madness, and I dive headfirst into my OCD — which honestly right now is doing my fucking head in.