Knox got something that never happened to him at Rupp Arena during a season where he was SEC Freshman of the Year.
The Knicks’ No. 9 selection got booed.
It’s something that simply didn’t happen to the All-SEC selection during his one year in the ‘Bluegrass State.’
Rather than fold under the immensity of the reaction from the fans, the soon to be 19-year-old who played his high school basketball in Tampa, responded like a gritty New Yorker and shrugged it off.
Kentucky forward Kevin Knox speaks with MSG Networks' Rebecca Haarlow after being selected with the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Jeering and criticism isn’t something that Knox is all that familiar with from his home college fanbase as Kentucky fans are loyal to their program, almost to a fault. And in a year when he averaged 15.6 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game, Knox was almost above reproach in Lexington. Yet for the large and vocal Knicks contingent at the draft in Brooklyn on Thursday night, Knox wasn’t the popular pick.
And they showed it.
Knicks fans wanted Michael Porter Jr., who suffered through an injury-riddled season at Missouri but boasts tremendous upside. He was seen as the exciting pick and fans couldn’t believe that he was still available at the 9th pick.
Despite the boos and consternation from Knicks fans, Knox held his head high. When asked about the less-than-favorable reaction from his new fans, Knox not only was diplomatic in his post-draft comments but he proved he has the mettle to handle playing in this tough city and inside the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena.’
See what happened when Kevin Knox left the stage after being drafted with the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Speaking after the draft, Knox noted that Kristaps Porzingis, the unquestioned star of this Knicks team, also got booed when the Knicks selected him three years ago. And now Porzingis is the face of this franchise.
“[Knicks fans] can chant Michael Porter all they want,” Knox said. “But they got Kevin Knox and I am willing to work and I am willing to get better.”
New York fans have always been tough on their own, brutally so. But when a player battles through the boo birds to perform, fans from this great city have always responded.
Whether it was Patrick Ewing getting booed after a tough playoff game or David Wells getting jeered in the Bronx, when a New York athlete responds to this criticism with determination and then backs it up by performing well, the city is set on fire.
Knox took a big step towards that with his comments on Thursday night. He embraced the reaction and the boos. Now imagine if he can begin to produce like Porzingis did.
Steve Mills breaks down why the Knicks decided to go with Kentucky forward Kevin Knox with the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft.
When he likened Kentucky to his new NBA team in comments made before the draft, Knox was acknowledging the pressure he’s already felt. Kentucky is a storied program and a five-star recruit is expected to perform at a high level. Knox is already accustomed to pressure and attention, having been on the national stage for a team that is expected to win the SEC every year and challenge for a national championship.
The selection of Knox represents a significant moment for the Knicks, who added yet another piece to their rebuild. He can score from inside and outside, while also having good size to rebound and defend down low. He measures well and can jump out of The Garden. One of the knocks on his game was focus and determination, something he helped answer with his mature comments after the NBA Draft.
GM Scott Perry talks about why the Knicks decided to take Kentucky forward Kevin Knox with their first-round pick in the NBA Draft.
He didn’t get hung up by fans reacting the way that they did. At the end of the day, that is the prerogative of Knicks fans to react any way they please.
But Knox didn’t respond in kind, rather embracing the reactions and the boos. In doing so, he showed the mentality that can help him turn this franchise around and return the Knicks back to the playoffs.