Kristaps Porzingis is leaning against a railing in Adidas' new global flagship store in Midtown Manhattan, but it doesn't appear that he's doing it for comfort. He's only an NBA sophomore, but having taken America's biggest media market by storm in a little over 17 months, he's done his share of interviews and learned a few tricks along the way. Reporters aren't 7'3" like Porzingis, so instead of forcing smaller people (read: everyone) to hold a recorder above their head, the 21-year-old Latvia native leans down to their level. Pro move.
Porzingis, picked fourth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks, is in his sponsor's new four-floor building to help fellow Knicks Kyle O'Quinn, Willy Hernangomez, and Derrick Rose give out "Triple Black" Ultra Boosts to a few lucky contest winners. He's also fresh off of a thrilling game against Karl-Anthony Towns' Minnesota Timberwolves, one that saw a determined Towns pour in 47 points. Porzingis' total fell 18 points short of that, but the Knicks' "unicorn" still walked away with eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and, most importantly, the win.
One red-eye flight from Minneapolis later and Porzingis' towering presence is back in New York and ready for a brief interview with Complex. We asked the Knickerbockers' big man about the growth of his sneaker sponsor, his hypothetical entrance music, the election, and his three favorite New York slang terms. Get hype, B.
What do you think separates Adidas from the rest of the pack today?
I think creativity. Creativity is what separates this brand from others. The freedom for athletes is what I loved about the brand before I signed with them. The swagger—look at this store! It represents the brand really well, you know? The swagger that it has. I love it. Especially lifestyle, they’re the top brand right now. Everybody wants their shoes so I’m happy to be a part of the brand and rock their shoes.
Looking at your Twitter I see a lot of retweets of Latvian rappers. As a Latvian rap fan, what can an American rapper learn from a Latvian rapper?
I don’t know. I don’t know if you can learn much. You know, we’re not on that level yet but I enjoy the music that they make. I understand all the lyrics. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand what [American rappers] are saying exactly in the song—some expressions or something like that—so that’s why I enjoy it so much. It reminds me of back home.
During baseball season they all have walk-up music and they get a song. What would you choose if you were able to come out to a song?
Oooh, that’s a tough one. I would really, really have to think about it. Something aggressive to get me hype before the game. Maybe something from Future.
With Joel Embiid, myself, Anthony Davis, Karl—we can be the big men that kind of change the game.
Obviously a great game between you and Karl Towns recently. I’m a Sixers fan and follow Joel Embiid. We look around the league and see Anthony Davis putting up 50 points. Is this a resurgence of the big man? Are you guys pushing away this idea of “small ball”?
It’s in our hands to do that, yeah. We will try to do that, and I think we have a lot of really good, young big men that can change the game. And what Karl [Towns] did, it was incredible. Almost 50 points and almost without missing. The level that he’s playing—he’s really hard to stop. So once you have a guy like that you have to find somebody that can kind of guard him. At least try to guard him. So that can change the game. With Joel Embiid, myself, Anthony Davis, Karl—we can be the big men that kind of change the game.
Do you feel like the best three-point shooting big man? Do you feel like the best 7-footer out there shooting it?
There are a lot of really good shooting big men. I don’t know, we would have to make a contest. [Laughs.] We would have to shoot for it. But I believe I’m up there.
I know Willy Hernangomez is your friend from the Spanish leagues and you speak really good Spanish. Do you think it’s easy to learn Spanish if you already know English? Do you think more Americans should learn Spanish?
I think it was pretty easy for me because I was there in Spain and once you’re in that environment where English is not that popular and people don’t speak it you have to learn how to speak Spanish as quick as you can, you know? [Laughs.] You can’t really communicate with people. So I did it pretty quick, six to seven months I was already having conversations. Once you’re on a team, too, the locker room speaks Spanish the whole time and you kind of learn quick.
I think a lot of Americans already do speak Spanish. A lot of them do. That’s why I’m telling Willy he’s lucky, he came over and can almost speak Spanish the whole time! But he’s learning English and he’s learning pretty quick.
He’s in a good city for it, too.
Yeah. For sure.
People are saying like [the] same thing with me—they booed me at first, you know?
On a slightly more serious note, you’re an immigrant here and you came at an interesting time in our country’s history. Just want to get your reaction as someone who is not a born American to this past election and just the last couple of months in general.
Honestly, I didn’t follow it that much. I don’t really know the positive things and the negative things that this whole thing has but, anyway, you have to give him a chance, you know? People are saying like [the] same thing with me—they booed me at first, you know? [Laughs.] So you never know. You know, you have to give him a chance. [But] I don’t try to get involved in the political things too much, that can only cause trouble for me.
Last thing. Now that you’re a New Yorker, I wanted to see what your favorite New York slang terms are. I made a list of some New York slang terms. Pick three of your favorites.
[Quickly points to “FOH”]
[Points to “B”]
[Points to “Hype”]
Appreciate your time, man.