Welcome to New York, Kris Porzingis.
Moments after he was selected No. 4 overall by the Knicks in the 2015 NBA Draft, the 7'1" Latvian center quickly learned how fans on the east coast react when their team does something they don't agree with. As Kris Porzingis walked across the stage, a moment that is meant to be one of the happiest and most relieving of an athlete's life was instead marred by a chorus of boos from New Yorkers crammed into Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
Not exactly the welcome one dreams of.
Though, if you've spent any time at all with the giant European with the sweet jumper and unlimited upside, you'd realize he was built for this kind of thing. Poised beyond his years, he doesn't seem like the type of person to be fazed by fan reactions. At least that's the perception I got when I briefly spoke to the newest Knickerbocker prior to the Draft. As a Latvian who grew up listening to rap, idolizing Michael Jordan, and frequenting World Star Hip-Hop, a lack of self confidence or ignorance of American culture has never been a problem.
Interview by Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice).
Kris, nice to meet you. First of all I wanted to ask if you're aware of the American stereotype for European players and if you are, does that mean anything to you?
Yeah, I'm very aware of that. That's something that I gotta prove—I don't like being labeled as "soft." I'm not soft. That's in my hands I just gotta prove it to the guys, to the GMs, to the scouts, to everybody.
There's some tough guys there's some soft guys; it's not just like [all] Europeans are soft and all Americans are tough.
You've played in Europe for a little while—is that stereotype true at all from your perspective?
I mean, some players are a little soft, some players are tougher than Americans. There's some tough guys there's some soft guys; it's not just like [all] Europeans are soft and all Americans are tough.
You're in America now—what are you most looking forward to about playing in the NBA and playing in America outside of basketball?
Probably I'm not going to have a life outside of basketball. [Laughs.] I'm just going to be living in a gym trying to get better and trying to prove to the coaches and everybody that I can play.
I'm an American and realize that most Americans can barely speak one language. How did you pick up English, Spanish...so many languages so quickly?
I don't know. I guess it's just talent, maybe. I pick up languages fast. I learned Spanish in five or six months. I'm a good student. Just trying to learn as much as possible is how I picked up so many languages.
A video posted by Kristaps Porzingis (@kporzee) on May 23, 2015 at 9:30am PDT
I have a few questions that only need one-word answers. Favorite basketball player ever?
Your favorite rapper ever?
Your favorite sneaker ever?
Favorite movie ever?
If you could trade places with any athlete in the world, who would it be?
Five years from now, are you an NBA All-Star?
[Pauses.] I'll say yes.