The New York Knicks selected Obi Toppin with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft Wednesday night. The Knicks, a franchise that has been mired in obscurity for years now, got the player it coveted, without having to trade assets to move up in the draft.
Obi, a Brooklyn-native who spent part of his high school years in Ossining, NY, with me, was clearly overcome with emotion after being taken by his hometown team. After being asked why it’s important to wear a Knicks jersey, Obi, amidst tears, said:
“I’m from New York. That’s why it’s important. Me repping my city. It’s amazing.”Obi Toppin
Most Knicks fans and NBA enthusiasts see a player that will bring excitement to Madison Square Garden. A high-flying skywalker that will make the Mecca fun again.
But I see a different picture.
Coming into his own
I remember seeing the bubbly 17-year-old spinning the ball on his finger in gym class. The jovial kid walking into my economics class with the biggest smile on his face.
I remember seeing the kid who worked so hard from Junior to Senior year that he grew what seemed like six inches and could suddenly dunk the ball.
A kid who made such an improvement between those two years that our whispers of “Can Obi make the league?” seemed less foolish by the day.
We’ve all grown up since high school, but for most of us, we still carry our raw and authentic personality traits.
I know Obi carries that same bubbly and kind-hearted nature he had five years ago. That’s what makes him a great person and someone I’m proud to still call a friend. Someone that inspires me beyond belief.
What the Knicks are getting
I know Obi still absolutely cannot STAND losing, so much to the point that it feeds his desire to be better. This, I know, is part of what Leon Rose and the Knicks saw in Toppin, and what made him rise to the top of their draft board.
“He’s a high character individual with a tremendous work ethic. We look forward to a bright future with him and are excited to bring a native New Yorker home to The Garden.”Leon Rose, Knicks President
And I know his work ethic is nearly unmatched. This work ethic enabled him to improve immensely from year to year, so much that he was Dayton’s 6-man last year, and this year was the most outstanding player in all of college basketball.
Obi is not just a high-flying rim runner, but adept at putting the ball on the floor, shooting from distance, and is an underrated passer. And in a season with an absurdly-short training camp period due to the pandemic, the Knicks are getting perhaps the most NBA-ready player from the draft.
And they are getting my friend; someone who has worked so hard to get into this position. And who will never take it for granted.