Houston Rockets' Kevin Porter Jr. Is Shooting For The Stars
This feature is in our March "Next Wave" Issue. Click here to subscribe.
Kevin Porter Jr. for SUKUTA, his web3-enhanced fan experience venture PHOTO BY EMILIANO GALLARDO
Kevin Porter Jr. (@kevinporterjr) has always looked at himself as a rock star. His trendsetting ways date back to high school when he came up with the unorthodox idea to wear compression leg sleeves underneath his socks, which was inspired by his NBA 2K MyPlayer, and it’s now part of his signature gameday swag on the court as Houston Rockets’ point guard.
“A lot of people were laughing at me at first and now I see a lot of people doing the same thing,” the NBA baller recalls of the rebellious fashion statement.
It’s an off-day in Sacramento during my chat with KPJ as the Houston Rockets guard dealt with a contused foot that left him sidelined for the next handful of games, so his rap-favoring pre-game playlist filled with Future, Playboi Carti, and Key Glock hits were temporarily paused.
The enigmatic personality is cool, calm, and collected in conversation while in the midst of another lost season for the Houston Rockets, who will be falling short of their audacious playoff aspirations and miss the postseason for the third consecutive year.
View this post on Instagram
The Seattle native has posted career highs in points, steals and rebounds per game this season. “There’s a lot of learning curves we’ve been experiencing and it’s been a lot of growth for me,” he says. “As the [point guard], the game’s been slowing down a lot and I’ve been feeling individually better than I was last year.”
KPJ is still adjusting to the role of floor general as the team’s primary distributor at point guard, a position the multilevel scorer never undertook a day in his life until being traded from Cleveland to Houston in January 2021.
Kevin Porter Jr. PHOTO BY CARMEN MANDATO/GETTY IMAGES
In addition to getting to the free throw line more and finishing at the rim, KPJ is most focused on improving his vision as a passer these days. “I want to be able to be a master in those moments when it’s time to score and execute,” he says of making winning plays in crunch time. “Being able to get my team a bucket or great possession every time out.”
“I always talk about how I remember my rookie season, and now that I’m up to year four, it’s just crazy how time flies,” the 22-year-old reflects on the whirlwind of his career thus far. “How badly you wish rookie season to be over and then how badly you wish to have it back, it’s just crazy.”
“I WANT TO BE ABLE TO BE A MASTER IN THOSE MOMENTS WHEN IT’S TIME TO SCORE AND EXECUTE.” - KEVIN PORTER JR.
KPJ is also expanding his interests into the tech world with the recent launch of his SUKUTA web3 venture. Je has long been a fan of anime and took a liking to NFTs and cryptocurrency after landing in Houston, and wanted to combine those worlds along with creating a community to interact with fans.
“I met someone named Namit Varma when I first got to Houston and he was into cryptocurrency. I’ve always had a light for NFT and cryptocurrency, and I didn’t really know what it was,” he explains.
“I basically wanted to create my own community, and Sukuta is my nickname, ‘Scooter’ in Japanese. I’m a big anime fan, so it’s bringing multiple communities together in one, and on top of that we have giveaways, skateboards, game-worn sneakers and digital collectibles from the NFT side to show my art. It’s a whole bunch of things all in one, but mainly a community for fans and me to interact and be united.”
Seattle has become a factory for producing NBA talent in the 21st century with a list that boasts Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Dejounte Murray and Paolo Banchero (the betting favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year), to name a few.
“The basketball culture in Seattle is just different because that’s all we have out there,” KPJ says of the Washington fraternity. “Paolo [Banchero] kinda tore the ceiling off for Seattle basketball. We’re on the map now for sure.”
The Houston Rockets rewarded KPJ’s hard work with a lucrative four-year contract worth $82.5 million prior to the start of the 2022-2023 season. While he hasn’t made any major purchases just yet with his generational wealth, he’s planning to check off one of his life goals and become a homeowner later this year.
“That’s gonna be a big accomplishment,” he admits. “A lot of people where I’m from don’t even know the steps to become one and what’s required, so having that opportunity is definitely a dream come true for me.”