WASHINGTON -- Spare your outrage upon hearing Bobby Portis’ take.
The Wizards power forward believes his game, one honed in Chicago that includes a striking hook shot, is the NBA’s best.
“I want to say I am. I’m pretty damn good. I’m not cocky at all about anything," Portis said, “but bowling is one thing I’m really confident with.”
Don’t split after that lede. At least wait until finding out more about an honor the Arkansas native received during the All-Star break that frames his high school career forever. There’s also the potential with the Wizards just two weeks after a trade X’d out the stretch-4’s time with the Bulls.
That deal also interrupted league play.
Portis showed up every Wednesday to Diversey River Bowl in the Logan Square section of Chicago, at least when the Bulls’ schedule permitted. At first, Portis just wanted to keep his skills sharp. You don’t roll a 285 by accident.
“I’m a very active bowler. I loooove bowling,” Portis explained to NBC Sports Washington. “It’s something I do each and every day in the summer.”
The former University of Arkansas standout fell hard for the game back in his native Little Rock. He and a group of friends would battle with push-ups at stake.
He arrives at the alley with a 14-pound, bowling ball. The trusty multi-colored orb helps the NBA big man do damage in the lane.
“I throw the hook, man,” Portis proudly stated. “Bowling takes a lot of skill and exercise and a lot of relaxation. You can’t just go out there and throw it hard.”
Portis moved to Chicago after the Bulls selected him 22nd overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. After he settled into his new professional life, he went searching for a game.
The initial plan involved an incognito approach that was a real gutter ball.
“I tried to have my hood on the first time I went so nobody would notice me,” the 6-foot-11 NBA player admitted, “but after that, it was a wrap. Taking pictures all damn night.”
Portis got to know some of those picture takers. “Just random dudes,” he said.
Soon Rajon Rondo and Lauri Markkanen weren’t his only teammates.
“I would go just practice my game and found these dudes I was cool with,” Portis said. “I exchanged numbers with them. We starting hanging out a lot. Started bowling. Then they invited me to their little league. I was bowling in their league ever since.
His now famous “crazy eyes” bulged during the reminiscing.
“It’s a really cool league,” Portis said. “You see a lot of old people there. They’re really good. They bring their balls. I never really knew people loved bowling like that until I joined their league.”
The trade to Washington put the bowling league on hold.
Portis did not quite know what to make of the deal initially. He entered his fourth season with a goal of being named Sixth Man of the Year. Suffering a right knee injury during Chicago’s fourth game derailed those hopes. Portis missed the next 23 games, returned for five and then sat out an extended stretch with an ankle issue.
The 2019 restricted free agent found his touch in January, averaging 14.2 points while shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The trade occurred three days after Portis scored 33 points on Feb. 3 and moments before Chicago hosted New Orleans.
“It was a crazy experience,” Portis said. “Had my jersey on, was ready to play.”
With time for reflection, Portis now sees the positives with Washington.
“I get more time on the court, show what I can do,” Portis said. “I’m just happy to be a Wizard. …Trades happen. I’m over it now. Have a chance to fight for the playoffs.”
Portis made quite the impression on his new team after four games, averaging 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 29.3 minutes off the bench while sinking a staggering 54.5 percent of his 3-pointers.
“He surprised me how good of a 3-point shooter he is for his size and his position,” Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky said. “I think it’s going to be fun also playing pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops with him.”
That fun could continue into next season if the Wizards retain Satoransky, another RFA, and Portis, who plays minutes at center with Washington.
“I can’t predict the future, whether I’ll be here or whether I’ll be somewhere else,” Portis said. “I know I can control the now. Now is me putting the work in each and every day.”
Back in the day Portis first gained notoriety playing for Little Rock’s Hall High School. He led the Warrior to four state championships. Those accomplishments plus his subsequent work in college and the NBA led to the school retiring Portis’ jersey during the All-Star break.
“When you’re a kid growing up playing the game of basketball, you’re just playing for the love of the game,” Portis said. “I never knew I would get my high school jersey retired. Man, it was a surreal moment for me and my family.”
Despite the honor, Portis is not the school’s most notable basketball alum.
“I think Sidney Moncrief is more famous than I am,” Portis said about the five-time NBA All-Star currently up for nomination to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
More famous than Portis, sure. Better bowler, probably not.
Among current NBA players, Portis only imagines another known bowling fanatic, Rockets guard Chris Paul, as competition.
Perhaps someone should organize a game of one-on-one.
“Might have to,” Portis said, “especially since the All-Star game is in Chicago next year.”
If that happens, expect a bunch of random dudes to spare some time for a former teammate back in town.
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