Iman Shumpert marches to the beat of his own drum. And then drops a mean freestyle over it.
Between his fashion, cultural influence, musical talent and style of play, Shumpert's popularity is rising on and off the court.
When the Knicks drafted him in 2011, the immediate acceptance rate was far from high.
A former McDonald's All-American from Illinois, Shumpert played three years at Georgia Tech, where he eventually dominated the ball as a point guard and go-to scorer.
Though he averaged 17 points a game as a junior, his career-high shooting percentages were 40 percent from the floor and 33 percent from downtown. His final year in school, his assist rate dropped to just 3.5 a game.
At the time, Shumpert seemed like your classic Knicks draft screwup—a shoot-first point guard who couldn't shoot.
Not to mention the previous Georgia Tech guard the Knicks had, Stephon Marbury, was getting booed during home introductions and last seen eating Vaseline on YouTube before taking his talents to China.
But instead of winning over the Garden crowd with 25-point games and double-doubles, Shumpert quickly established himself as an impact defender. Knick fans had forgotten what one looked like. This wasn't just a reputation New Yorker's unjustly gave their new rookie. Shumpert was a hound on the ball—a human straightjacket.
He's laterally quick, explosively athletic and extremely long with claws that snap.
And when you consider all the offensive-minded guards the Knicks have had during their post-Ewing disaster decade, it became easy for fans to appreciate Shumpert's defensive prowess.
Offensively, he's become an energy guy—someone who makes plays that are driven by his motor instead of his dribble.
He's in the process of making a very difficult adjustment going from ball-dominator to complementary role player. It didn't help that his ACL tore in his first ever NBA playoff game.
But Shumpert returned after only eight months despite still missing some of that explosion in his knee. The kid's a competitor—one of those guys who'd try and play if his arm popped out his socket. That's really the reputation he's already earned with New York fans.
They may not know if J.R. Smith will be on, if Tyson Chandler will be engaged or if Amar'e Stoudemire will even suit up. But everyone knows that when No. 21 gets into the game, intensity gets injected into the lineup.
As we got to know a little bit more about Shumpert on the court, his name began to spread off it.
A musical enthusiast, Shumpert's passion for poetry and hip-hop has been well-documented.
Shumpert recently made waves with the harder rap community when he fired back (not safe for work) some rhymes at Kendrick Lamar, whose verse on Big Sean's "Control" called out just about everyone in the game.
He's also shown off his softer, more passionate side. After losing his aunt to cancer, Shump broke down in tears while expressing his feelings through poetry in New York City's Village Underground.
It's pretty hard not to admire the guy up on that stage.
Shumpert has become a terrific role model for those learning to channel their emotions through expression.
He's one of those new-school cats with old-school flavor. Shumpert is a 90s kid, if you couldn't tell from his flattop, street clothes or mixtape.
His mom worked in fashion design, which ultimately sparked his interest in style and developing his own brand. And that's what he's done so well for himself in such a short period of time in the league.
At this point, you could probably sell little "Shump Juniors" in toy stores and watch them fly off the shelves. Thanks to Shump, I've already got my Halloween costume picked out. He's got fans listening to him on their headphones, wearing his clothes and watching his highlights on YouTube.
What's most likable about Shumpert is the way he carries himself on and off the floor. Whether he's locking down Paul Pierce or spitting bars into a mic, Shumpert performs with passion.
He may never develop into an All-Star caliber player or Grammy-nominated artist, but Shumpert has something that can't be taught—character, colorful personality and original swagger that appeals to all audiences.
And it's going to help him succeed as a NBA guard and cultural icon.
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