The legacy of the Adams’ family talents


The tall athlete, a woman with evident Tongan eyes, light dark skin, black hair colored blonde at the basis, walked to the shot put circle, her eyes focused on a far horizon. Her right hand, at the end of impressive arms, kept a sphere weighing about 4 kilograms (8,8 lbs), that she made jump like a balloon. A white powder on her neck ensured the action would not hurt the skin.

Her body made you think of a spring ready to open: a tight torso, strong legs, subtle and dynamic ankles. She entered the circular platform, her back to the area where she would put the little sphere. She set the metal ball in the area of her neck, holding with the right hand.

She bent the right knee, waited for a second or two, then sprung up so quickly that you could appreciate her movement only in slow-motion, and the sphere landed after flying for 20,56 meters, handing gently to Valerie Vili, actually Adams, she divorced Mr Vili in 2010, the Beijing 2008 Olympics gold medal.

Valerie smiled, but she had to wait until the last trial to make sure she was the champion, as everybody expected. The first golden medal in track and field for New Zealand since John Walker’s in Montreal in 1976’s 1500 meters, Valerie started jumping and giving high fives to all the competitors.

Her coach came down from the stands and at home her family cheered and cried.

Her family. 17 brothers and sisters, more or less like her. Her father, Sid Adams, had never relieved until the last years, finding in New Zealand a comfortable spot for his over 2 meters height, that got there after a couple of years in the English Merchant Navy.

Born in Bristol, Sid and his sister Valerie, whom he named his daughter for, stood above the crowd and had to endure the jokes of their friends because of their height. That is probably the reason why both headed abroad, thus distributing a very particular DNA around the world.

After his career as a sailor, Sid settled at the other side of the world, where the Maori and the Tongan bodies did not make him a strange thing, and he liked the place so much that, in 30 years, he had 18 kids from several wives.

Valerie Adams, not the shot putter, but Sid’s sister, like her brother, left Bristol, but headed to Paris instead of Oceania. There, thanks to the outstanding length of her legs and a very beautiful complexion, Kelly Leboivici, the choreographer and mastermind behind the Lido, the famous club in which incredible beauties danced not much dressed up, spotted her and made her enter the Bluebelles.

During the show, an Italian businessman fell in love with her, and, among many others, he was the on she chose to go away with, to live a comfortable life near Milano.

Here, in 1965, their son Riccardo was born.

In the early eighties in Italy a new sensation started playing in the Italian basketball Serie A: Riccardo Morandotti, a young forward with flashy moves, a dunker and outstanding physical attitude, roared the courts as the first player of a new generation, looking more like the Americans than like the Italians.

Riccardo had a long career in Auxilium Torino and Virtus Bologna, giving up some of his offensive attitude to win more as a defensive standpoint.

When Valerie, the Olympic Champion, was born, in 1984, Riccardo was playing a deadly playoff series with the Torino team against a powerful Milano. When Steven came to life in 1993, Riccardo had just won the Italian championship with Bologna.

Steven, grew up as tall as his siblings, but at 13 his father died and he went through a difficult time, hanging around with the wrong friends. Nevertheless, two of his brothers came in help, and at 2,10, about 7 feet, could convince easily the friends to let him go.

Steven, then, went back to school, where he met Coach Kenneth Mc Fadden, who managed a basketball academy in New Zealand after a career at Washington State. Mc Fadden saw something in the boy. He took him at home at 6 am before school to make him accelerate in learning the game, and at 17 Steven was ready to step up.

Anyway, nobody knew him at national level. In the juvenile system in New Zealand at the time, you had to pay the expenses to play in the national team, so Steven grew up outside the radar. Coach Mc Fadden called his friend ad Pitt state Jamie Dixon, who came to see a normal teen ager and found a seven footer with an outstanding physical ability.

Dixon drew Steven in Pitt University, which Steven left after just a year for the NBA, where he was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Few could foresee how strong Steven would become. At seven feet, and with an outstanding coordination and strength, Steven is a cornerstone of the Thunders, replacing Kendrick Perkins and Nate Collison under the rim. A bright young man, capable to learn, he provides the necessary rudeness under the basket together with technical skills that are just making him better year after year.

For Russell Westebrook he’s the perfect complement, given the presence of Paul George and Carmelo Antony to require the team to play with more than one ball, to satisfy all the egos on the court.

In 1985, the Atlanta Hawks drafted the promising Morandotti at number 137, but Riccardo could never make it after the training camp. It was a different time, Europeans were not yet playing in the NBA, it was probably too early.

It’s not too early for Steven instead, 28 years younger than Riccardo, who probably will star in the NBA for a long time.

The Adams’s genes spread around the world a generation of incredible athletes, each a star in its field. Sid and Valerie, who probably did not see each other after their youth, in some way ran parallel, like the wealth of their cells could not avoid sporting success.

Valerie, Steven, Riccardo, seem to have been inevitable. A group of athletes that sprung from a neglected tough incredible talent. A common fire that, though it grew apart, not knowing each other, at the end had to burn, find its way to come to light.

And in the end, mysteriously, it had to meet again, finding, at so many miles of distance, something in common, which could not mistake for anything else.

The legacy of the Adams’ family talents.