Football season commenced last weekend with top New York draft picks Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold balling out. Could Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson join an elite group of young Metropolitan stars?
Monday night was a roller coaster of emotions for New York Jets fans. After a solid debut from number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley in the Giants’ home-opener loss, the Jets took center stage on ESPN for a nationally televised showcase in Detroit for their own prima donna, number-three overall selection quarterback Sam Darnold.
The 21-year-old Southern California prospect proceeded to throw a pick-six on the first offensive play for New York, which crushed Jets fans’ early hopes. However, the rest of the game found New York’s rookie QB fastidiously operating an offense that featured well-timed, precision throws for first downs, time management, and even a 41-yard touchdown pass for Darnold’s first career score. Meanwhile, the Jets’ defense and special teams were popping, too, and the normally disappointed Jets fan base found a joyous victory in the first game of the 2018 NFL season.
If you’re wondering why we just expounded hundreds of nonrefundable syllables on a franchise that hasn’t won its league title in nearly fifty years, it’s because Darnold (and Barkley) represents the emerging group of potential star-laden talent across New York professional sports. On the other side of the Hudson, the Yankees’ playoff race has largely been pushed by key contributions from rookie infielders Miguel Andújar and Gleyber Torres—the top contenders for AL Rookie of the Year honors, along with the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. From the Bronx to Queens, the Mets’ shortstop Amed Rosario boasts a .273 batting average while flashing some serious leather. Left in the shadow of John Tavares’ border-hopping departure, the New York Islanders’ Rookie of the Year winner Mathew Barzal is a skilled playmaker on the ice. Even the dreaded Brooklyn Nets have gleeful center Jarrett Allen under their employ.
Regardless of your personal sports team self-affiliation, it’s no secret that the Big Apple is brimming with young players ripe for stardom. And where better to build a prominent sports legacy than New York?
In similar fashion to Darnold’s Monday night debut and Barkley’s thunderous 68-yard rushing TD, the Knicks’ Kevin Knox received a whimsically delightful welcome into the league with his unofficial coming-out party at the Las Vegas Summer League.
Kevin Knox throws it down for the SummerKnicks' first points! pic.twitter.com/9KY884mJ4I
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) July 7, 2018
Although he has yet to make his regular season debut, Kevin Knox is another name to watch out for—offering New York’s preeminent (and lowly) basketball team hope for success down the road and personal stardom in the making. Knox could easily enter the league as the Knickerbockers’ focus on offense with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined until possibly February 2019 or beyond. With slashing ability on the wing and playmaking shiftiness with the ball, Kevin will certainly be a weapon on offense for New York from the get-go, providing youthful energy from a swingman the Knicks have been desperately missing since Carmelo Anthony’s decline. Furthermore, Knox’s recent (unofficial) deal with athletic wear Puma would position the rookie to branded footwear idolatry amid possible on-court prosperity.
There remain plenty of questions on Knox, though. The 82-game season is grueling for veterans, let alone a 19-year-old rookie. The “rookie wall” as it’s named (not affiliated with The Knicks Wall) is very real; we saw Porzingis go through it in 2015–16, and recently Utah’s first team All-Rookie Donovan Mitchell saw a slice of the wall, despite leading the Jazz to a playoff berth and first-round series win. Knox is young (yes, a good thing as we’re talking about New York rookie stars), and that lends itself to poor decision-making early in his hoops career as the no. 9 overall pick figures out what kind of player he is. There’ll be times Knox looks terrible—he doesn’t exactly have a bevy of weapons around him. Nonetheless, the stage is set and the Post is ready to issue print copies with Knox-themed back page headlines. The world is his oyster—er, apple, so to speak.
As for Mitchell Robinson, there remains a great, wide unknown. Robinson jumped from high school to the pros as the second-round selection had difficulty sticking to a collegiate schedule, instead opting to individually train for this year’s draft. Mitchell surprised pundits and NBA fans with his shot-blocking prowess in Vegas, but that could be attributed to simply the enormous question mark hanging over the 36th-overall pick’s head. Nevertheless, the prospect of watching Robinson and Porzingis lord over the Garden’s sacred paint, blocking shots and mean-mugging is downright tantalizing. Basketball stars in New York tend to grow from myth to legend status in quick fashion—how many hoops idols in Gotham date back before our memories? Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Michael Ray Richardson, Bernard King, and even Patrick Ewing for the younger readers all escape our fuzzy, internet-addled, short-term memory banks. So yes, it would be fun to watch an imposing center like Robinson prosper in the city.
Can't get a shot up with Mitchell Robinson in the paint just don't try it Jazz pic.twitter.com/1MhxNICxWE
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) July 9, 2018
There are fewer greater moments than when New York is unified by a successful local sports team. Think: Linsanity as a movement, not a moment, and that could be the near future for teams with leaning-young cores like the Yankees, Jets, and maybe Knicks. Pray those ‘Bockers can build a contender with youngsters Robinson and Knox, and Porzingis back from rehab, and the city could hum a sweet sports symphony.