NBA 2K Players Tournament: Michael Porter Jr. thrilled to represent Denver Nuggets
When Michael Porter Jr. accepted an invitation to participate in the NBA 2K Players Tournament along other NBA players, he had no idea how big it would turn out to be.
“I didn't realize it was going to get this much publicity. I thought it was going to be an in-house, kind of fun thing,” Porter Jr. told Nuggets.com in a phone interview. “I didn't know it was going to be streamed or put on ESPN. It's kind of crazy.”
Make no mistake though, the Nuggets’ highly-touted rookie is excited to represent the Mile High City when NBA 2K Players Tournament tips off Friday night. He believes he was the best man on the Nuggets roster for the job.
“There's a few dudes who play [2K in the Nuggets’ locker room. I know Jamal and Monte play a lot but I think I'm the best,” Porter Jr. said confidently.
Porter Jr. is set to face Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker in the opening round of the competition, presenting a tough matchup for the 21-year-old. Booker is one of the favorites to win the entire 16-player competition according to Las Vegas sportsbooks. With pride on the line and potentially millions watching at home, Porter Jr. knows the stakes are high.
“Yeah, I'm kind of nervous because I'm not trying to get smacked by 30 and then all my 2K juice goes down the drain,” Porter Jr. joked.
Although Porter was initially surprised by how much attention the NBA 2K tournament is getting, he knows the game will likely serve as a welcome distraction during the current coronavirus pandemic. Millions around the world are currently staying home to respect the need to help with social distancing and flattening the virus’ current curve. As of April 3, there have been an estimated 1.1 million diagnosed cases of the virus, including 55,195 casualties, according to Worldometer. Porter Jr., like many around the U.S., didn’t understand the severity of the Covid-19 (the Coronavirus’ medical name) until more reports came in.
“My reaction has kind of changed,” Porter Jr. explained. “At first, I was taking it kind of lightly, now I'm seeing there's kids who are dying, kids who are getting really sick. I'm just doing my best to play my part, staying home with my family and not do anything to make anything worse.”
He added, “I think we can do our jobs to [keep people safe].”
For Porter Jr.’s part, he’s back at home with his family in Columbia, Missouri. He is one of 11 siblings, so he admits his experience with social distancing might be different than most.
“We're all in the house. So I've pretty much have all my friends basically with me,” he said.
Porter Jr. is also fortunate to have a full private gym at his parent’s home. His dad, Michael, has helped in running drills to keep his son in shape. It was that environment that led him to rise to prominence as a high school basketball prodigy in the town.
“Yeah me and my dad, growing up, he'd just work us out. He was my coach for a while,” Porter Jr. said. “Basically, what we do is go through drills, ballhandling and shooting drills.”
He added, “Honestly, I feel in pretty good shape. I'm just trying to not take too many days off and things like that.”
And Porter Jr. is also prepping a lot for his upcoming matchup with Booker. Aside from his good friend Trae Young and Suns center DeAndre Ayton, he’s never played against anyone else in the competition. He’s been given eight selections of potential NBA teams he can play with and he’s hoping he can get to use Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Giannis is the best player in the game,” he said. “If you use him, you're literally unstoppable.”
Although Porter might see Young or Ayton in the latter stages of the competition if he advances, the rookie is hoping to matchup against a certain No. 1 seeded, 10-time NBA All-Star.
“I think I'd rather play KD, because I heard he's like a God in 2K,” Porter Jr. said. “I want to see how good he is.”