Day by day, Kristaps Porzingis seems to win more people over. It started with the same New York Knicks fans who booed his selection at the 2015 NBA Draft, and it’s extended as far as San Antonio Spurs icon Tim Duncan.
You can keep adding legends to the list of people impressed by Porzingis.
When Porzingis entered the NBA, he received an equal measure of praise and trepidation. Some loftily compared him to international greats such as Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki, while others likened him to Andrea Bargnani and Jan Vesely.
Legendary point guard Magic Johnson took to Twitter to offer his take on Porzingis after the Knicks’ 99-95 win over his beloved Los Angeles Lakers.
That’s high praise from an iconic figure.
Johnson won five NBA championships, three Finals MVP and three league MVP awards during his illustrious playing career. He played with Hall of Fame players including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
It’s safe to say that Johnson can spot an intriguing talent when he sees one.
Whether or not Porzingis was the biggest steal of the draft, he’s certainly silenced a vast majority of his critics. His relentless work ethic and motor on the court has already garnered the praise of basketball fans across the world.
Rather than brushing off Johnson’s comments or allowing them to inflate his ego, Porzingis was understandably honored by the words of encouragement and appreciation.
That’s yet another example of Porzingis being an engaging and appealing figure.
Rather than possessing the mentality of a player who’s already made it, Porzingis continues to display the heart of a pure competitor. He went as far as saying that he wants his on-court motor to rival that of Russell Westbrook—one of the most passionate players in the NBA.
According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, Johnson wasn’t the only Lakers legend to speak highly of Porzingis’ work ethic and future.
Bryant didn’t stop there; he spoke directly to Phil Jackson about Porzingis’ upside and promise.
Jackson was Bryant’s coach from 1999 to 2004 and 2005 to 2011. He’s now the Knicks’ team president, and the man responsible for Porzingis donning a Knicks uniform.
Has all of this hype gone to Porzingis’ head? Not in the slightest.
The rookie took to Twitter to express just how much of an honor it was to play against a player of Bryant’s caliber and stature.
Seriously, how can you not love Porzingis’ approach to the game?
Not only is Porzingis a passionate competitor, but he’s a unique talent. He stands at 7’3″ with legitimate 3-point range, an intriguing post game, impressive efficiency in attacking off the bounce, and defensive versatility.
That’s netted Porzingis averages of 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals in 24.3 minutes of action—good for some impressive per 36 numbers.
When all else fails, he competes.
It’s hard to expresss anything but admiration and appreciation for Porzingis’ desire to make his team proud.
Bryant and Johnson see something that Knicks fans are rapidly coming around to: long-term potential. In the short-term, Porzingis will give everything he can to help his team win.
The jury may still be out for some, but New York is in a very good place if Porzingis is the future.