The New York Knicks selected Obi Toppin, a New York native from the University of Dayton, with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft Wednesday night. Born in Brooklyn, Toppin is the first player born in one of New York’s five boroughs to be drafted by the Knicks in the Top-10 in the Modern Draft Era (since 1966), according to Elias Sports Bureau.
As the 22-year-old forward sat surrounded by family in his home, he told ESPN’s Malika Andrews how much it meant to him to be able to wear the Knicks colors.
“Me reppin’ my city, it’s amazing. … I’m not gonna take it for granted. I promise you that.”
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 19, 2020
“I’m from New York,” Toppin said. “That’s why it’s important. Me reppin’ my city, it’s amazing. A lot of people pray to be in this position and I’m not going to take it for granted — I promise you that.”
Toppin, who attended Melbourne Central Catholic High School and Ossining High School, did not receive any Division I college offers and opted to play a post-graduate year at Mt. Zion Prep. After committing to Dayton in 2017, he won the A-10 Freshman of the Year award after averaging 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 66% from the field and a strong 52% from beyond the arc.
After a superb sophomore year at Dayton, Toppin was named the 2020 Naismith Player of the Year. In his final year, he averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 63% from the field and 39% from three-point range. A dominant offensive player, Toppin’s highlight reel is filled with monster dunks and fiery energy on both sides of the court.
With 2019 rookies RJ Barrett and Ignas “Iggy” Brazdeikis along with Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina and now, Obi Toppin, who is older than all of the aforementioned players, the Knicks are continuing their rebuild. While his rebounding can still improve and it remains to be seen how his defensive abilities will shape up against the NBA’s talent, Toppin is a pure scorer and his high productivity rate will likely be a welcome sight in Madison Square Garden.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted earlier in the night that the Knicks were” excited” about Toppin and following the pick, team president Leon Rose explained why the team was so interested in him to reporters.
“As one of the highest ranked players on our draft board, Obi was someone we really coveted,” Rose said. “He’s an explosive athlete and one of the most dynamic players in college basketball.”
Portland Trailblazers guard C.J. McCollum tweeted his support for Toppin, remembering the time he watched the forward’s explosive play and looking ahead at his potentially bright future.
I really like Obi . Hope he does well. Seen him catch a lob from half court and windmill it 3 years ago and I had no idea who he was lol. I told him if you can make a corner trey with that bounce you will be a lottery pick and cash out.
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) November 19, 2020
As is typical among the franchise’s ardent supporters, Knick fans’ feelings ranged from pleased with the hometown hero pick to disappointed in the team adding yet another forward to a roster filled with them.
“Toppin is showtime, it’s box office in the open court watching him dunk — I get it,” said ESPN analyst and passionate Knicks fan, Stephen A. Smith in a video posted to Twitter. “But how many forwards can you have if you’re the New York Knicks? […] I needed a guard!”
we really took another forward
— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) November 19, 2020
The Knicks history in the draft hasn’t exactly earned them the benefit of the doubt with fans, so this reaction was to be expected, but there’s no doubt Toppin will bring, if nothing else, an added energy to the Knicks going forward as a native New Yorker who genuinely loves the franchise. Whether that passion is matched with success on the court will be the determining factor in how beloved a figure Toppin becomes among Knick fans, because if he helps lift the team, his love for the franchise will be reciprocated by its fans tenfold.