How Steven Adams created countless memories with OKC Thunder? Stache Bros, flip flops and a 3-point shimmy
Steven Adams was traded from the Thunder to the Pelicans on Saturday, ending his seven-year tenure in Oklahoma City.
Adams and the Pelicans agreed Monday on a two-year, $35 million extension that will keep the 7-foot center in New Orleans through the 2023 season, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
The Thunder received a 2023 first-round pick (via Denver), two second round picks, George Hill, Darius Miller, Kenrich Williams, Zylan Cheatham and Josh Gray in exchange for Adams.
“Steven Adams will hold a special place in our organizational legacy,” general manager Sam Presti said in a statement Tuesday. “On and off the floor, Steven contributed to our teams and community in unique ways and his place in Thunder history is secured.”
Adams averaged 9.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in his Thunder career. His field-goal percentage (58.9%) is the best in franchise history.
The New Zealand native made countless memories for Thunder fans, but here are 10 of The Oklahoman sports staff's favorite Steven Adams moments:
Welcome to the NBA
Adams, during his exit interview after his rookie season, was asked to describe his “Welcome to the NBA” moment.
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What followed was a hilarious bit of storytelling, which Adams would become known for.
Adams described a practice altercation with fellow center Kendrick Perkins.
“We were like scrimmaging or whatever and we kinda got into it, like we clashed,” Adams said. “I accidentally hit him. And then like, he turned around and elbowed me in the ribs and I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’ (holding ribs). Then he just yelled at me: ‘I’m the only silverback!’ I was like, ‘What the …?’”
Adams never missed significant time due to injury despite being on the giving and receiving end of numerous physical battles. Especially in the playoffs.
There was the famous Draymond Green kick to the groin Adams endured in the 2016 playoffs.
Then in the 2018 playoffs, Adams had to readjust his nose after taking an elbow to the face from Jae Crowder.
Let's talk about Steven Adams' shoes.
Or more specifically, his flip flops.
There are all sorts of on-court moments that stand out from the big man's Thunder career, but the thing that makes me smile most when I think about him is what he wore to games. While many of his teammates were wearing designer duds and off-the-wall apparel, Adams sported almost the same thing every game.
Ball cap. T-shirt. Sweatpants of some ilk. Flip flops.
He looked like a super-sized teenager headed to school on a Tuesday morning. But it was totally unpretentious and completely representative of who Adams is. He grew up as a farm kid in New Zealand, and that down-home nature never changed.
I loved that about Adams.
He never let the bright lights of the NBA change him. He was a hard worker, a simple soul when he arrived in Oklahoma City seven years ago, and even though he's leaving us for New Orleans, I have no doubt he'll take that attitude with him.
He'll take the flip flops, too.
The flip side to the flip flops came on Dec. 18, 2019, when Chris Paul told his Thunder teammates to suit up. CP3 purchased custom-tailored suits as part of a team-bonding experience and even the camouflage-loving Adams got into the act.
On that night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Adams arrived as if he was cast for a Guy Ritchie movie, decked out in a navy suit with a newsboy cap on his head.
In Game 2 of the 2016 West semifinals, the Thunder led the Spurs 98-97 and had the ball with 13.5 seconds left. Then came the memorable Dion Waiters inbounds pass, in which he used his head to nudge San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili out of the way, then lobbed a pass toward Kevin Durant.
But the Spurs’ Danny Green stole the pass, Durant fell down and the Spurs were off on a 3-on-1 fast break. But the one was Adams, who came sprinting from the frontcourt.
Green passed the ball to Patty Mills as he darted in from the left wing, but the presence of Adams in the paint prompted Mills to throw a baseline pass to Ginobili.
By then, Russell Westbrook had hustled back and was chasing Ginobili as he drove into the lane, but Adams stood there, ending all thought of Ginobili shooting. Ginobili flipped a one-handed, over-the-head pass back to Mills in the corner, but Adams anticipated the pass and already was on the move. He sprinted at Mills as the sharpshooter caught the ball in the corner and launched a 3-pointer.
Many an NBA defender closes out on 3-point shots in the corner. But few closeouts are from a 7-foot, speedy behemoth. Mills airballed the shot and Adams crashed into the front row of seats.
The buzzer sounded, and the Thunder had a victory, courtesy of Adams’ remarkable hustle, athletic ability and willingness to do whatever it took to win.
The bromance between Adams and fellow center Enes Kanter made for several entertaining moments when they were Thunder teammates from 2015-17.
Adams and Kanter became known as the Stache Bros.
In a 2016 sitdown interview with The Oklahoman, both Adams and Kanter wore their Stache Bros T-shirts as they explained the origin of their nickname.
Kevin Durant, wearing a fake mustache, interrupted the interview.
“You always take the spotlight,” Adams joked. “Let us be cool for once.”
With 21 seconds left in Game 4 of the 2017 first round playoffs, Adams sank a free throw to shrink the Rockets lead. With the Thunder trailing 108-104, Adams walked to midcourt to deliver a message to Westbrook, who was standing at the opposite free-throw line.
“Be ready,” Adams told Westbrook.
Westbrook gave him a nod and followed Adams back to the Thunder’s side of the floor.
With everyone set, Adams abandoned his free-throw routine and quickly threw the ball off the front of the rim. He grabbed his own rebound and flung the ball to Westbrook, who drained a 3-pointer to cut the Rockets’ lead to one point.
The Thunder lost 113-109, but the free-throw play was one of the most electrifying moments the two former Thunder stars delivered.
It was the fourth quarter of a Dec. 2018 game in Denver. Westbrook drew two defenders in the paint, so he flipped a pass to Adams, who was open under the basket.
Adams gave a quick shot fake, which sent Nuggets center Mason Plumlee flying in for a block attempt. Adams, having absorbed Plumlee’s contact, had an easy chance to finish a possible 3-point play.
Adams instead stopped his shooting motion and stayed low, saving the airborne Plumlee from a scary fall. Adams caught Plumlee on the way down and helped the Nuggets big man to his feet.
Karl-Anthony Towns inadvertently made his free throw with 1.1 seconds left, putting the Timberwolves ahead by two points and giving the Thunder time for a miraculous finish.
Adams grabbed the ball out of the net, and surveyed the court like a quarterback. Dennis Schröder ran a deep post route, and Adams launched a one-handed in-bounds pass that was perfectly on target. Schroder corralled the heave and flipped a running layup off the glass and in just before the buzzer. The Thunder beat the Timberwolves in the overtime game last season.
Adams drained his first-career 3-pointer during a February game at New Orleans.
With 3.3 seconds left before halftime, Adams inbounded the ball to Paul, who flipped a pass back to Adams.
Adams, standing well beyond the half-court line, flicked his wrist and held his shooting form, closely watching until the ball splashed through the net.
Adams celebrated with a shimmy as the Thunder’s bench erupted.
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›
Jeff Patterson is the sports editor of The Oklahoman. A native of Lexington, Kentucky, he allegedly once told his father on a childhood trip passing through Oklahoma that he would one day live there. He doesn't recall this, but he fulfilled that... Read more ›
Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›
James D. Jackson joined The Oklahoman in January 2020 to cover high school sports. He a University of Central Oklahoma graduate. During his time at UCO, James served as a sports reporter and Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, The Vista.... Read more ›