The new face of the Knicks' most recent charity movement is someone not born or raised in North America, but rather a young Latvian who’s taken the city – and the hearts of New Yorkers – by storm.
He’s only been a Knick for about 18 months, but Kristaps Porzingis has increasingly continued to plant roots deeper in New York with each charitable endeavor attached to his name. And it’s not just his name that he’s lending, as the 21-year old is a hands-on philanthropist, giving his time as much as any New York-area sports star today.
He noted that he’s become a proud New Yorker, and is thrilled with the prospect of becoming a mainstay on the charity circuit, and is especially happy to work with children.
“It’s my home now," Porzingis said. "To see the smiles on their faces and know I’m doing something to help out means so much. It’s been great. The way the city has embraced me has been incredible.”
Since arriving in New York as the fourth-overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Porzingis has been a man about town for numerous charitable events. Whether arriving at Rockefeller Center on a party bus with over a dozen children, donned in a Santa Claus hat, taking selfies with any passerby who asks, or doing silent work like providing gifts to children during the holiday season, Porzingis has entrenched himself in the city and its constituents.
His most recent outreach has been his pledge to donate $500 per block in the name of the Ben Jobe Educational and Scholarship Fund. The money will be allocated to provide RENS participants with free tutoring, SAT preparation, and tuition money for third to eighth grade students.
“When they came to me with the idea, I took it seriously and knew it’s something I wanted to be a part of,” Porzingis said.
Jobe has Knicks ties himself, as he’s currently a team scout. The 83-year old was once a famed college basketball coach at seven black colleges and universities. Jobe recorded 530 career wins, and has been so impactful, the National Association of Basketball Coaches have a National Coach of the Year award in his honor for African-American head coaches of Division-I basketball programs.
Outside of perhaps New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr., there’s no hotter and more popular young athlete in the area, so it makes sense that organizations have been trying to attach themselves with the rising star.
The charity campaign, known as “KrisSTOPS,” officially began on Nov. 20 when the Knicks hosted the Atlanta Hawks. And while Porzingis didn’t register a block, he’s been on a defensive tear lately. Even with former defensive stalwart Joakim Noah on the team, Porzingis has emerged as the Knicks’ best defensive player. He leads the team in blocks per game (1.5), is tied for second in steals (.8), and tied for first in defensive rebounds (5.4).
“It’s a great feeling to give back to the kids,” Porzingis said after a recent event. “I have to block everything I can to donate as much money as I can, so I can make an impact ... This is a special, special thing we’re doing here.”
He’s not only carrying the surging Knicks on the floor, but has become a trusted and valued leader off the floor with his many acts of kindness – particularly to children. With Derek Jeter retired, and other charitable New York sports superstars like Carmelo Anthony and Eli Manning on the back-end of their respective careers, Porzingis is poised to pick up the slack and carry the torch. He’s already been accepted as one of New York’s own, and has called the city “his home for many, many years.” So, as long as Porzingis continues to return shots to sender, the quality of life for many of New York’s youth will steadily improve, and it’ll be due to a very unlikely source – a 7-foot-3 Latvian who has made it his mission to give back to the community.
Porzingis = Points
Porzingis has been at the forefront of several recent Knicks wins, including a 106-104 win over the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Wednesday. Porzingis pumped in 29 points in the road win and he posted 31 points in a win at MSG over Portland two weeks ago.