New York Knicks: The Marketability of Kristaps Porzingis


After a hot start, it’s finally time to realize that the New York Knicks have a legitimate budding star in Kristaps Porzingis

Believe it or not, half of the NBA season has already come and gone. We’re less than a month away now from the excitement of All-Star Weekend. That means it’s officially time for me to accept what many have believed for months…Kristaps Porzingis is the real deal.

Don’t get me wrong, as a native New Yorker I like the Knicks, but something about all of the Porzingis hype seemed incredibly premature. He got off to an incredibly hot start this season and has helped the New York Knicks stay afloat in an over-achieving Eastern Conference. Since then, he’s simmered down to about 14 points and 8 rebounds per game. Still though, he’s gone from rags to riches (or more accurately boos to ovations) in just six months.

The New York Knickerbockers and the NBA shouldn’t care that there have been a few holdouts from the Latvian baller’s bandwagon thus far, he’s a burgeoning star in the league and should be a focal point in marketing strategies.

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Porzingis has compiled a nightly highlight reel that rivals that of anyone else in the league. His shocking offensive rebounding prowess and dunking ability has led to some of the biggest moments in the first half of the season.

The most recent jersey sales numbers indicate that his is the fourth highest in the entire league. He trails only Lebron James, Stephen Curry, and Kobe Bryant. Again…he trails only the undisputed best player in the world, the reigning MVP/Champ who seems to be destined to repeat those honors this season, and a surefire Hall-of-Famer who will go down in history as one of the All-Time greats. That’s pretty elite company, and that’s the part of this that the Knicks and the NBA as a whole should be most excited about: He’s a 20-year-old rookie on a list with the biggest names in the sport today.

All of those fans buying Kobe Bryant jerseys are looking to own a piece of history as the legend plays in his final NBA season. Lebron James has been at the helm of the sport for a number of years now, but he’s now into his 30s and while that may not seem too alarming it means he’s now closer to the end of his career than he is to the start. Stephen Curry on the other hand is now 27, and has reached a prime few thought possible of him just a few years ago. Next to those three names Porzingis represents something different and exciting: the Future.

In the world of sports the end of fall and early months of winter are the most busy and hectic times of the year: basketball and hockey are getting underway, the football season is hitting it’s most exciting stretch leading right into the playoffs, and baseball’s World Series gives way to a slew of news-worthy offseason moves that keep it more than relevant during this stretch.

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Still though, every sporting news show seemed to carve out time to cover the Knicks in some way shape or form. It’s not like it was last year, they’re not comically terrible and shooting for the top pick in the draft. They’re not exactly a squad whose playing like a surefire playoff team. They’re hovering around .500 right now, and yet still everyone knows what’s going on with them.

Their media coverage isn’t because of their star, perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony. The strange on-court antics of J.R. Smith aren’t drawing attention to the Big Apple since he was shipped to Cleveland. Whether you call him “KP”, “Porzee”, “Zinger”, or my personal favorite “Three Six Latvia”; the point is that you know what he’s been up to and as a result you know about what his team has been doing too.

He’s a foreign product who has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki on the floor. Whether he can be as great on the court is something we’ll have to wait and see about. However, he does have a leg up on Dirk for the simple fact that he plays half of his game in madison Square Garden, the mecca of basketball. He’s a member of the NEW YORK Knicks, a team whose media exposure and market size is rivaled only by the Los Angeles Lakers.

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The league and his team need to take this and run with it while they can. For all we know this league-wide obsession with Porzingis could just be the next Linsanity, and a couple of years from now all of this hysteria will be perceived as a joke. Maybe he’ll achieve new heights not even Phil Jackson, the Zen Master responsible for bringing in the Latvian Forward, could have imagined possible.

Either way there’s an enormous opportunity for the association to bill Kristaps Porzingis as the future of the NBA and the sport as a whole. Worst case scenario, they make a sizable profit for the next few months before he and his hype fade away into the abyss. Best case scenario, the league gets a head start on a legitimate superstar.