Who is New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis?

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Born in Liepaja, Latvia in 1995, 7 foot 1 inch Kristaps Porzingis is a big-man with power forward and center capabilities weighing in at over 220 lbs. 

Porzingis began playing basketball in his hometown aged 6 and remained there until he was 15. It was at this point that an agent from Latvia sent a video of him to teams based in the European 'big leagues' of Italy and Spain. 

In 2010, following on from the video, Baloncesto Sevilla, a professional club competing in the Liga ACB in Spain, called Porziņģis in for a tryout in an attempt to recruit foreign talent to its junior squads, and to bolster the size within their youth ranks. 

Pozingis recalled this moment when talking to in 2015, stating " "I came here with my brother for two or three days, but it was really hot and I couldn't play at my best because of that. Still, I received a contract in summer 2010 and I signed it."

Stoked by the offer, Porzingis jumped at the chance - a major step in his pursuit of a professional playing career. Unfortunately, the Seville nutritionist then determined that Porzingis had anemia - a shortage of red blood cells commonly resulting in fatigue and lack of breath. 

With his condition and communication problems due to the language in Spain, Porzingis saw his career slowly slipping through his fingers. Realising that the 2012 Nike International Junior Tournament was potentially his last chance - "I knew it was a prestigious tournament and that I had to do well" - Porzingis averaged 9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks before coming back the following year to average 16.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks and going .481 on three-pointers.

The 2013 tournament highlight for Porzingis was a 24 points,11 rebound game against Real Madrid along with 5 three-pointers.

Sevilla Beginnings

Porzingis made his Sevilla debut in 2012 playing a solitary minute, before then playing a four-minute game. Visibly frustrated, Porzingis finally got his first basket of the season towards the end of the campaign which acted as a 'weight off his shoulders'.

The Latvian big-man got better season after season with Casajol Sevilla, and capped off his final season in Spain winning the Eurocup Rising Star of the season award - a fitting accomplishment for a 'never give up' athlete who had had his bumps on the road to success.

Porzingis, who had previously declared for the 2014 NBA Draft before withdrawing due to feeling 'unprepared', declared for the 2015 NBA Draft and began drawing comparisons with the likes of NBA veteran Pau Gasol. 

Having gained a season more of experience plying his trade in Spain, he became known as a lottery pick drawing interest from teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, who had the No.2 pick whilst continuing to draw comparisons with Gasol but also constant All-Star German Dirk Nowitzki.

However, being somewhat of an unknown entity the Latvian also drew the unwanted comparison with Darko Miličić, a former European lottery selection who has since been widely considered as a draft 'bust'.

Adrian Wojnarowski, writing for Yahoo! Sports detailed just how hard it will be for Porzingis in the NBA, stating "Porziņģis has an innate awareness about the way the American public sees a young, long European teenager. He comes to the NBA with the full understanding that popular basketball culture declares him guilty until proven innocent of the basketball crimes of Darko Miličić and Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Andrea Bargnani. He's considered a stiff, a bust, a blown lottery pick until he doesn't become one..."

Chorus of Boos

Kristaps Porzingis was drafted at the No.4 pick by the New York Knicks to a chorus of boos from the fans in the arena, with the Knicks also trading for Porzingis's teammate from Sevilla, Guillermo Hernangómez, who was originally drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers as a 35th overall pick. 

Evidently, the Knicks will be investing a lot of time in Porzingis especially after drafting Hernangómez to aid the process of comfortability for the Latvian.

Therefore, though culture dictates we view Porzingis as a 'bust' until he proves differently, everyone viewing the big-man over the course of his career should keep an open-mind and rather than compare Porzingis to players of the past... let Kristaps Porzingis be Kristaps Porzingis. 


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