When Bobby Portis enters a game at the United Center, the fans sitting with a closer view of Michael Jordan’s banner will have a clear view of the rookie’s eyes—because they can’t be missed.
“This is me – Crazy Eyes Portis,” the long-armed athletic forward said. “I'm going to be bugging out there. I'm going to try to play as hard as possible.”
Before anybody else can dish out the nickname, Portis is laying full claim to it, considering the comparisons that have stemmed from noticeable pupils have ranged from former NFL receiver Plaxico Burress to former NBA player Darius Miles to current Los Angeles Laker Roy Hibbert.
Brooklyn Net Joe Johnson brought up the Miles comparison, back from their days in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Everyone always tells me that I look like him (Burress), and that I look like Roy Hibbert. I hope I don’t, though,” he said.
Let’s just say he’s not a fan of any, so Crazy Eyes Portis will have to do for the moment.
“I'm just taking that nickname from what everybody else is calling me,” Portis said. “Everyone always talks about my eyes being bugged and everything. That's something I'm going to take and run with. I like that name.”
Nicknames in the NBA can be derived as a hazing technique before becoming a term of endearment, and considering Portis has always been the older brother, following the lead of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson in the frontcourt appeals to him.
“Joakim for sure. He’s like the big brother I never had,” Portis said. “Growing up I was always the oldest. I never had a big brother. He’s been there pushing me so far, reminding me everything I do should be hard and tenacious. I kind of feed off of his energy, and both of us try and bring the team up a little bit.”
Walking the streets of Chicago, he’s fairly recognizable, so the attention, the fast pace of the big city and yes, the traffic, is new to him. But the effort that’s required to play inside the lines of the court translates from the dirt roads to air-conditioned gyms with 30-somethings and the big eyes of evaluation watching his every move.
“I love it. That’s something I bring each and every day,” Portis said. “That’s one of my biggest qualities, playing hard. If I can just keep continuing to play hard like I do, I feel like our team will be good.”
And good veteran teams traditionally don’t just have minutes laid out for late first-round picks, especially in a crowded frontcourt where consistent time is almost impossible to guarantee.
“All of us are competing, you know. Me, Taj, Joakim, Pau and Mirotic – we’re all competing,” Portis said. “We’re all trying to fight for those minutes. We’re all trying to play the big role and help our team be successful. It’s not about backing down. It’s about stepping up and making your teammates better.”
The uncertainty of playing time aside, he’s treating the new experience with the utmost seriousness, as his crazy eyes will tell you before his lips part to tell you.
“I’ve been getting up every morning trying to get here first to make a good impression,” Portis said. “This is my first job ever. I’m 20 years old and I haven’t worked anywhere but here. I think it's a great job to have.”