‘That’s Just What I Was Born to Be’

In this article, the author discusses how being a sports fan is more than just liking a certain team or sport. Sports fandom can be about sticking to your belief in something that doesn’t always come with easy answers and knowing there are no right or wrong choices when it comes to rooting for your favorite team.

The NBA has seen a massive increase in international players since the turn of the century. One of these rising stars is Luka Doncic, who became just the third player to ever be drafted straight from high school into an NBA team. The only problem was that he wasn’t born here, and had never played basketball before playing professionally for his native Slovenia at age 15-years old.On a day when Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was traded to the Denver Nuggets, it seemed like an ideal time to reach out and ask him what he thinks about his career so far.

“That’s Just What I Was Born to Be” is a song by The Who. It was released in the United Kingdom on April 27, 1967 and became their first top-10 hit.

The New York Knicks have had a long journey. Last season marked the franchise’s first trip in the playoffs since the 2012-13 season. This century, the Knicks have only won one postseason series. But, in the shape of 2019 first-round choice RJ Barrett, there is reason to be optimistic.

Barrett has been quietly honing his skills. During his rookie season, he showed flashes of what he might be, and he continued to progress coming into his second year.

Barrett, on the other hand, is demonstrating he’s on his road to superstardom, something the Empire State hasn’t seen since Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing.

RJ Barrett was selected third overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks reacts to a play during a game in Madison Square Garden.

RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks reacts to a play during a game in Madison Square Garden. During the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden, RJ Barrett and Kemba Walker of the New York Knicks react alongside Evan Fournier. | Getty Images/Sarah Stier

In 2019, it looked that the Knickerbockers’ bad luck with the draft had resumed. By a considerable margin, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were the top two prospects in that class, but New York finished third in the lottery, as expected.

Barrett, the most promising potential in the next tier of players, was chosen by the team.

RJ was mediocre at best throughout his debut season. Barrett averaged 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game this season. He made 40.2 percent of his shots from the field and 32.0 percent of his 3-point attempts.

The 6-foot-6 winger ranked 255th out of 259 qualifiers in scoring efficiency, according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus (h/t FiveThirtyEight).

Barrett’s numbers improved to 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game in 2020-21. Despite a higher number of shot attempts, his efficiency improved.

He averaged 44.1 percent from the field on roughly two more shots per game, and 40.1 percent from three-point range on 4.3 attempts per game, up from 3.5 last season.

For the first time since Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, Amare Stoudemire, and Jason Kidd were on the court together, Madison Square Garden finally hosted a playoff game, and Barrett was a big part of it.

This season, though, the former Blue Devil has made another step forward, one that has gone unnoticed but is propelling him into superstardom.

The Maple Mamba is on his way to becoming a celebrity.

New York is 6-3 in nine games this season. In terms of statistics, Julius Randle leads the Knicks, but Barrett is revealing his genuine potential, which is considerably greater than the seven-year veteran’s.

The Duke of York’s game is growing by leaps and bounds. His catch-and-shoot jumpers have morphed into off-the-bounce possibilities, and he’s missing them. Barrett scored 35 points in a victory against New Orleans, displaying a broad range of offensive skills, some of which he had yet to demonstrate in the NBA.

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, who is known for being tough on young players, has praised the former Blue Devil’s work ethic and drive to succeed. “RJ has excellent work capacity,” Thibodeau remarked of Barrett, according to Yahoo. He is driven to succeed; it is essential to him; he is coachable; and he is a fantastic teammate.

“When you look at how he tackles things, you can see he’s tough, has basketball IQ, and is competitive.” You can truly progress if you have those three characteristics in addition to your skill.”

To hear it directly from the 21-year-old himself, he was meant for greatness from the start. Barrett told the New York Post in a Q&A session:

“I believe that’s exactly who I was meant to be.” There’s a part of me that knows I’m meant for greatness, that I’m destined for something higher. I believe that the work ethic instilled in me by my family will constantly provide me with opportunities to improve, to prove and demonstrate who I am. I’m a competitive person, so when I put all of those qualities together, I just know I’m going to make it.”

RJ Barrett on his tremendous potential

Barrett is on his way to become the biggest celebrity in New York since Patrick Ewing.

Steve Nash, the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets and a fellow Canadian, is RJ’s godfather. He’s been a close observer of the Toronto native’s growth.

Nash informed the world what Barrett may become in a 2020 piece on NorthJersey.com:

“All he has to do now is keep his head down and focus on his development.” He mustn’t let losing get in the way of him striving to be the greatest player he can be. And, thankfully, that’s the kind of child and character he is.”

RJ Barrett vs. Steve Nash

Losing hasn’t been a problem for New York in a long time (finally). Barrett is doing exactly what Nash has predicted for a long time, and he’s a big component of the team’s success.

Barrett is in his third year in the league and has made significant improvements. And he’s just twenty-one years old.

Since Ewing in 1985, RJ was the Knicks’ highest first-round selection. And it seems that the franchise has found its brightest star since the Hall of Fame center.

Unless otherwise stated, all statistics are from Basketball Reference.

RELATED: A Return to Madison Square Garden, Where It All Began, Could Revive Kemba Walker’s NBA Career

The “born this way lyrics” is a song by Lady Gaga. It was released on February 13th, 2011. The lyrics of the song are about being born different and feeling like you were meant to be who you are.

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