Michael Porter Jr. was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the No. 14 overall selection in 2018. After back surgery wiped out his initial rookie campaign before it started, the 22-year-old has made his presence felt in the NBA.
Here’s a look at 10 things to know about Denver’s big man, his life and his NBA career.
Strong pedigree: Porter is one of eight siblings to Lisa and Michael Porter Sr. His mother played college basketball at Iowa, while his father played at the University of New Orleans and is an assistant coach for the University of Missouri men’s basketball team (where he has spent the past two seasons). Prior to that, Porter Sr. spent the 2016-17 season as an assistant at the University of Washington in Seattle, where Porter the younger played his senior season of high school.
High school phenom: Porter had a successful high school career, beginning in Columbia, Missouri, where he led Tolton High School to a 26-3 record and the school’s first state title in 54 years during his junior season. Porter played his senior season for Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, once again leading his team to a state championship.
Coached by Brandon Roy: During his senior season in high school, Porter was coached by former NBA player Brandon Roy. Under Roy, Porter averaged 36.2 points as Nathan Hale went 29-0 and won the Washington Class 3A State Championship. Porter continues to keep close contact with Roy, who himself struggled with injuries throughout his six-year NBA career.
Stock sky high coming out of high school: Porter was named MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and was awarded Naismith and Gatorade Player of the Year awards. He’s just the fifth high schooler to grab all three honors, joining Dwight Howard (’04), LeBron James (’03), Chris Webber (’91) and Alonzo Mourning (’88).
College career cut short: After originally committing to Washington, Porter joined his father at Missouri, where he played just three games during his freshman season. Porter injured his back in the first game of the 2017-18 season and had to have surgery, but returned to play in the final two games of his freshman season. Porter played in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament and the Tigers’ first-round loss to Florida State in the NCAA Tournament.
Stock slips before Draft night: While many considered Porter a potential No. 1 pick before his freshman season and even leading up to the Draft, Porter’s stock took a hit as some teams became concerned by Porter’s injury history. Porter called his time at Missouri recovering from his back injury “really, really tough, dark days” and said there were times “I was ready to give it up.” Porter said his slide on Draft night was a “tough time” as he saw 13 teams pass him before the Nuggets grabbed him with the No. 14 pick.
Nuggets take it slow: Porter missed the entire 2018-19 season while recovering from a second back surgery. The Nuggets, who won 54 games that season, took a patient approach with their prized lottery pick.
A setback in 2019: In the summer of 2019, Porter was eagerly anticipating joining the Nuggets’ Summer League roster, claiming he felt great and was “ready to dominate”. However, just days before his team took the floor, Porter suffered a left knee sprain and had to sit out Denver’s Summer League games in Las Vegas.
Suiting up at last: Porter finally got to make his NBA debut on Oct. 31, 2019, notching 15 points in a blowout loss to New Orleans. From there, his role was sporadic, but a standout January 2020 helped establish his place in the mix. That month, he averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting a sizzling 52.2% from the field and 48% on 3-pointers. In the Orlando season restart, Porter averaged 22 ppg and was even better in the 2020 playoffs, averaging 11.4 ppg to help Denver reach the West finals.
Lives a vegan lifestyle: Porter has been a lifelong vegetarian, but has recently shifted to a mostly raw vegan lifestyle. Porter credits the diet for more energy and has seen the benefits as he’s recovered from his injuries.