NBA: Steven Adams takes knee during anthem, debuts 'Kia Kaha' jersey as OKC Thunder resume season

Kiwi Steven Adams took a knee before the Thunder faced the Jazz.
Kiwi Steven Adams took a knee before the Thunder faced the Jazz. Photo credit: Getty

Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams debuted his new 'Kia Kaha' jersey and took a knee during the US national anthem, as his OKC Thunder defeated Utah Jazz in their first official match since March. 

Adams scored 16 points and 11 rebounds, as the Thunder claimed a 110-94 win in their first official outing in 143 days at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Instead of wearing his surname on his jersey, Adams has opted to have the Māori phrase 'Kia Kaha' - meaning 'be strong' - for the remainder of the season, as every NBA player is permitted to have pre-approved social justice message on the back of their jerseys as part of their support for the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.

Steven Adams in his 'Kia Kaha' jersey.
Steven Adams in his 'Kia Kaha' jersey. Photo credit: Getty

Before the game, Adams wore a 'Black Lives Matter' top and took a knee along with his teammates, despite threats from Oklahoma lawyer Sean Roberts, who said he would re-examine Oklahoma City Thunder's tax benefits should any players take part in the protest, saying it was an "anti-patriotic act", and showed "disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for". 

Most NBA players and staff have knelt during the national anthem since the season restarted on July 31 (NZ time), after it was interrupted in March by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The season was suspended on March 12, after Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, just as his side was about to face the Thunder in Oklahoma. 

Gobert was ruled out of the game, but one of his teammates - Donavan Mitchell - also had the virus and didn't know until he was tested after the game was cancelled. 

Within hours, the entire NBA season was suspended and play has only just resumed in the Orlando 'bubble'. 

The win gives the Thunder a 41-24 record and they're back in action on Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.