Steven Adams and Willie Apiata visited Wakatipu High School on Thursday, and were greeted with a thunderous haka by the 600 pupils who’d gathered to meet the ‘unexpected guests’.
While the visit to the high school by the Oklahoma City centre and the Kiwi war hero had taken months of planning, the students were kept in the dark as to the special guests' identities up until the moment the pair walked through the auditorium door.
Wakitipu High school principal Steve Hall told Stuff the pupils were “pretty blown away” by the visit.
“For us it was an amazing thing to happen for our school,” he said.
The sports star and the Victoria Cross recipient spoke to the students about the need to make sure they were prepared for anything life threw at them, and to use life’s challenges as a way of building resilience.
“[They spoke] about failure and that things are going to go wrong and we need to bounce back and be OK with that” the principal said.
The pair recounted to the students some of the challenges they’d overcome in order pursue their dreams.
For the NBA star it was learning to love a sport he hated at first but through training four and a half hours a day for four years, he improved and he “got addicted”.
Sir Willie Apiata’s spoke about being knocked back the first time he applied to join SAS.
The war veteran also bought along his Victoria Cross which was awarded to him in 2007. He passed it to pupils and encouraged them to touch it.
“Touch it. Put your own mana, aroha into it. Every New Zealander that gets to hold it in their hands, you now share the responsibility.”
The Thunder facebook page reported Adams' message to the hoards of star-struck teens was: "Don't be afraid of failure and always be yourself".