Michael Porter Jr. Q&A: One of the Most Polarizing Prospects in the NBA Draft

Michael Porter Jr. has been in the basketball spotlight since he was in the fifth grade. Now the former Missouri Tiger is just a few hours away from hearing his name called on draft night. He sat down with The Crossover to discuss escaping pressure, his first NBA splurge and more.
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Michael Porter Jr. is zeroing in on the first purchase he’s going to make as an NBA rookie.

“I’m thinking a Tesla,” Porter revealed when asked what he’ll buy when he signs his contract, already knowing that his first splurge will be for a new set of wheels. Porter spoke to The Crossover earlier this week on behalf of Autotrader, who along with Puma is one of the brands to attach themselves to Porter early in his career. (The rookie is already a seasoned pitchman, touting Autotrader’s selection of cars and addition of Kelley Blue Book Price Advisor when discussing his Tesla dreams.) Porter is also one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s draft, with his pedigree clouded by an injury-plagued season at Mizzou that limited him to three games.

Ahead of the big night, The Crossover caught up with Porter to discuss his life off the court, when he knew he would make it to the NBA, and much more.

Rohan Nadkarni: What’s something you do to escape the spotlight or pressure of being such a highly discussed prospect?

Michael Porter Jr.: Well for me, I only like being in the spotlight or under pressure on the basketball court. Besides that I try to be as normal as possible. I go fishing, I like reading. I like to hang out with my family and friends in low key situations, and not be about taking all these pictures and stuff. I like to stay low key. Ever since we were little my dad would take us fishing. I’m actually like the worst fisher in the family. My brother is great. Me, I can never seem to catch one that big.

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RN:I know Mizzou isn’t quite in St. Louis, but have you ever tried St. Louis pizza? Jayson Tatum made a big deal about it last year.

MPJ: Oh, Imo’s? I never tried it. I tried the Chicago pizza though and that’s fire. Deep dish is great, it’s great. It may be a little overrated, because I love thin crust pizza.

RN: What went into the process of deciding your draft suit?

MPJ: It was honestly just going to the back of my head and seeing what I could do. Because I always want to be inspirational. So going to the back of my head and seeing how I could inspire people. And have a good look for draft night and try not to make a fool of myself. Some people try to go too big. For me, it’s pretty simple but I think it will inspire a lot of people. I like fashion, but I’d rather wear the free stuff than the stuff I have to buy. I like fashion but I’m pretty simple when it comes to that stuff.

RN: What are you most looking forward to after the draft?

MPJ: Just getting to the city, getting acclimated. Knowing where I’m going to live, finding a spot to stay. Getting to know my teammates and get it rolling. Get all this draft stuff behind me, I just want to know where I’m going.

RN: When did you know you had a chance to be in the NBA?

MPJ: I actually knew for a fact I was going to be in the NBA. In my head, I knew for a fact in fifth grade.

RN: Really?

MPJ: We were at AAU nationals. We were the No. 1 team in the country. And we were all in a room, all of us top players in the country sitting in a room.

RN: Who else was in the room?

MPJ: On my team we actually had some players in this draft. Me, Gary Trent, Kris Wilkes, Paul Scruggs and my brother. We were all on the same team. There was a guest speaker, and he was basically telling us we need to find some other interests because based on stats two of us would make the NBA. From that moment on, I always knew. He’s not going to tell me I’m not going to make the NBA. So from that moment on. Really.

RN: How will you greet Adam Silver on stage?

MPJ: I’m gonna give him a brother handshake. Lean in, dap him up, show some love.

RN: What was the last book you read?

MPJ: The Alchemist. It’s good. It’s about a kid discovering his personal legend, discovering his destiny. Actually someone dropped it off, someone who lives in the same apartment complex as me, dropped it off at my door. They left their card and their number, I didn’t even know them. So I read it.

RN: A stranger left you the book?

MPJ: Yeah, and it was dope.

RN: What’s the last movie that made you cry?

MPJ: What’s that movie called? Dang, what’s it called? Wonder! It didn’t make me cry but it made me sad because of the way people treat people who are different. That rubs me the wrong way.

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RN: Are you one of those people that never cries during movies?

MPJ: It’s tough to make me cry. I’m empathetic. He was getting bullied like crazy. But I didn’t cry. And I was with my mom, so. [Laughs]

RN: What was the hardest part of not being able to play much last season?

MPJ: Not being able to play for my team. I went to Mizzou to create a legacy. To bring one of the worst teams in the country to be one of the best. I think we would have had a real chance. We already made the tournament without me. So I think we would have had a chance so it was real tough not playing with those guys. But it was all God’s plan and he has a plan for me. I just had to think about the positives.

RN: What’s the thing that people said about you in the last year that bothered you the most?

MPJ: Because people didn’t get to see me play this college year, a lot of people would make assumptions that I’m not a team player, I’m cocky, I’m not humble. Weird stuff that I would hear that I never heard before this last year when I didn’t play. A lot of that isn’t true. When you get to know me, you know that I’m a super nice person. I care about people. When I hear that stuff it bothers me a little bit. But at the end of the day, people will get to know me when they see me on the court and get to know my personality.