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Kristaps Porzingis is the Sports Hero the Big Apple Deserves

Nov 23, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) reacts after fouling Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (not pictured) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

New York City is the media capital of the world, but the Big Apple has lacked a definitive sports king since Yankee great Derek Jeter retired in 2014.

Sure, there’s plenty of options with eight pro teams in four major sports, but varying factors have hindered each candidate. Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is the most obvious choice given his media appeal and stellar debut season. However, the second-year Pro Bowler has achieved individual greatness while playing for two lackluster Giants teams, plus Sunday’s on-field meltdown should create a much less favorable persona.

Eli Manning, who led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins, was always a solid option. But his “aw shucks” demeanor and inconsistency have both prevented him from emerging as the toast of the town.

The Yankees will always be the No. 1 sports franchise in the Big Apple, so even with the Mets’ World Series run, the lack of a true star in the Bronx hurts baseball’s chances of producing a sports king. The Rangers and Islanders were both playoff teams in 2015, but hockey will always be an alternate to baseball, basketball and football.

Brooklyn has embraced the Nets, but — like the Mets — they’ll always play second fiddle to the Knicks in the other four boroughs. So who does that leave us with?

Carmelo Anthony? No, despite being the franchise player for several years, it’s not him. Instead, it’s this guy:

That’s Kristaps Porzingis. If you haven’t heard his name by now, you will soon enough.

He’s the Latvian-born rookie whose demeanor says, “I’m about to grab the Big Apple by its core,” and believe it or not, he already has. Porzingis is having a stellar rookie campaign with 13.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game through the first 28 games of his NBA career.

He’s a rare talent standing at a staggering 7-foot-3, yet possesses the shooting touch of a small forward. He’s already one of the favorites to win the Rookie of the Year award, and for good reason.

Porzingis’s offensive numbers are solid, which is no surprise given that’s what impressed scouts the most leading up to the draft. But it’s his defensive game that’s far beyond the expectations given to a 20-year-old rookie big man. Porzingis is blocking two shots per game, which is seventh in the NBA. He’s recorded at least six blocks in three games, including seven against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week.

But he didn’t capture the hearts of Knicks fans immediately. In true New York fashion, Porzingis’s No. 4 overall selection was greeted with a “Bronx cheer,” and many criticized team president Phil Jackson for selecting the Latvian prospect over some of the other players available.

But even the biggest doubters have embraced Porzingis, who’s helped the Knicks climb back to .500 with a four-game winning streak that included a 107-91 win against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. And Porzingis fever is only in its early stages; just wait until his game develops even more:

 

New York is a melting pot of cultures, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that a potential future All-Star from overseas could take the city by storm. Porzingis will continue to gain attention in the Big Apple and be the cornerstone of the Basketball Mecca’s most popular franchise for the next decade.

It’s only a matter of time before Porzingis poses with the leaning crown a la Notorious B.I.G. to solidify his place as the [sports] king of New York.

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