Australia have always tried to steal New Zealand’s things and call them their own. Pavalova (a dessert), Russel Crowe, the race horse Phar Lap… It never ends. I’ve even seen some #AussieSteve hashtags popping up! This one’s personal though, as New Zealand looks to take it to Australia in an arena that has never been used before: The NBA.
The rivalry between New Zealand and Australia is as ingrained in our cultures as the great American rivalries: Magic/Bird, Red Sox/Yankees, Duke/NC and too an extent, Warriors/Kings for NorCal supremacy. The countries continually battle one another in an attempt to gain a hold of bragging rights and silverware.
As it stands, the Kiwis won the Rugby UNION World Cup, the Rugby LEAGUE World Cup and the Bledisloe Cup, which is a trophy that is fought solely between the two nations. Those are three of the most sought after awards in the two nations. Of course, the Australians do excel in areas where Kiwis falter but that swings both ways. Strengths and weaknesses are part of being a sporting nation.
That’s why tomorrow, when Steven Adams starts in lieu of Kendrick Perkins when theWarriors play the Oklahoma City Thunder, there’s actually a lot more going on than just a clash between the Western Conference’s elite. Two countries will collide , on a stage that will play host to this rivalry between nations for the first time.
For us Aussies and Kiwis, it’s another point of separation. Who can be the better nation in another sport? New Zealand’s team in the Australasian National Basketball League, the SkyCity Breakers completed a three-peat just last season, which has left Aussie hoops fans hungry for basketball blood. Even if they’re Thunder fans, they’ll be hoping Bogut gets his, and Adams comes out with a whimper. As a Warriors fan, I can tell you I’m rooting for a dominant performance by Adams on Bogut.
The matchup isn’t even, though. Adams comes from a very different background than Bogut in terms of early life and basketball.
While Bogut was mentored in the Australian Institute of Sport in a structured environment, Adams came from a large family of 18 (which is not a typo) including his half-sister, Gold Medal Olympic Shotputter Valerie Adams and had little mentorship when his father died. His brother brought him to Wellington, where Kenny McFadden took him under his wing and got his life back on track, which eventually landed him a scholarship with Pittsburgh in the NCAA.
Bogut was a heralded athlete at Utah, which led him to be the Number 1 overall pick, whereas Adams didn’t have the impact many expected him to have. Despite that, he still caught the eye of many GM’s during the draft workouts, which led him to be taken 12th overall by the Thunder.
Warriors Assistant Coach Brian Scalabrine said this of Adams in regards to what he might do for the Celtics, if they drafted him:
“I haven’t seen him in action like 5-on-5, but this kid would be a tremendous asset for the Celtics. He’s strong and big and would take so much pressure off guys like Garnett. He’s athletic and pretty intelligent, and would fit in pretty well.
Despite these differences, they’re both NBA players now, and their battle is fast approaching. Bogut, as the veteran, should handle him without much problem, but Adams is a tenacious rebounder and a physical paint presence. In other words, Andrew should not expect Adams to be a walk in the park. You can’t make excuses for Adams being a rookie or Bogut a defensive powerhouse. Both men will put in their work, and one team will come out with the W.
Tomorrow is going to be a big day for this rivalry. It’ll be a point of contention and a source of bragging rights for both countries, and I for one can’t wait for it to start.