- Adam Hunger/Getty
Kristaps Porzingis, the New York Knicks’ rookie big man, has been one of the brightest stars of this year’s stacked new class.
Coming into the season, Porzingis was a giant unknown – a 7-foot-3, 20-year-old from Latvia who had the height and length of a center, the shooting ability of a guard, and the athleticism of a forward.
While the NBA world was high on him, Porzingis was deemed a project. He needed to put on weight, and on top of being new to the NBA, would need time to craft his unique array of skills into a workable blend.
Instead, Porzingis has played a big part on a surprisingly decent Knicks team, and has produced several impressive highlights just nine games into his NBA career.
Between his incredible size, surprising production, jaw-dropping potential, and overall mystique, here’s why the NBA world is so enthralled with Porzingis.
Prior to the 2015 NBA Draft, most of the NBA world had little exposure to Kristaps Porzingis. Compared to known prospects like Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor, Porzingis was a mysterious, scrawny teenager loaded with potential, playing in Spain.
- Via YouTube
People had to rely on grainy YouTube footage of his highlights, showing a wiry but explosive athlete from Latvia.
- Via YouTube
In his lone pre-draft workout, Porzingis blew people away, showing his incredible athleticism and shooting touch for a player his size. One scout said he was the best player in the draft.
- Via DraftExpress
When the Knicks drafted him at No. 4, he was mercilessly booed by a fan base hoping for Towns, Okafor, or guards like D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, or Justise Winslow.
Porzingis’ immediate response to the boos? “I would love those booing fans who didn’t know me to [become] fans who know me and cheer for me,” he said.
After the draft, fans began to see a side of Porzingis they didn’t realize existed. He posted this Instagram of him rapping a 10-year-old rap song just a few weeks before the draft.
A video posted by Kristaps Porzingis (@kporzee) on May 30, 2015 at 10:11am PDT
It became clear that Porzingis has a different personality from many of the European players who come to the NBA at a young age.
"He has a great sense of American culture," a Kristaps Porzingis teammate told me. "He goes on WorldStarHipHop every day."
— Ben Cohen (@bzcohen) June 26, 2015
New York City began to embrace Porzingis. He threw out the first pitch at a New York Mets game and did a surprisingly decent job, considering that it was his first time throwing a baseball.
His work ethic further endeared him to the NBA. Knicks GM Steve Mills said he walked in on Porzingis in the summer taking an ice bath and watching footage of Usain Bolt running to try and improve his form.
Porzingis’ career has gotten off to a quicker start than anyone imagined. He’s averaging 11.6 points, 39% shooting, nine rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game in 25 minutes per game.
He’s produced some insane highlights, too, like this fast-break spin-and-dunk in just his second NBA game.
He also has a penchant for spectacular put-back dunks.
How about one more?
And he was nearly the hero against the Charlotte Hornets, hitting what would have been a game-winning three-pointer, had it come off his fingers 0.1 second sooner.
Between his athleticism, shooting, defensive potential, and confident demeanor, Porzingis could become a player unlike anything the NBA has ever seen.
- Adam Hunger/Getty
And for a team like the Knicks, coming off a 17-65 season last year, Porzingis is a ray of hope for a bright future.
- Streeter Lecka/Getty
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