‘Belieber’ Jalen Brunson raises hopes for middling Knicks

Alder Almo
Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks
Nov 16, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) gestures with the ball in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Almost a quarter into the season, New York Knicks starting point guard Jalen Brunson has started to turn doubters into believers.

He’s the real deal.

Brunson’s All-Star caliber play has propelled the Knicks to a .500 record after 18 games, tied with the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors for the 7-9 spots in the loaded Eastern Conference.

His current season average of 20.8 points and 6.7 assists are career highs, numbers he’ll never produce in Dallas as long as Doncic is healthy.

Brunson views himself as a leader. And that was nurtured by his father, Rick Brunson, a former Knick and now one of the team’s assistant coaches.

Reinforcing that belief before he steps on the court every game is a Justin Bieber song — a pregame routine that began in 2015 when the Canadian singer released his fourth album entitled “Purpose.”

Since then, Brunson has been playing with purpose, winning two championships with Villanova along his path to the NBA.

“I wasn’t always a Bieber fan. I have a younger sister, she was a Bieber fan from the beginning. I remember when [Bieber] came out with an album in 2015, my sister — this is the time my sister and I started actually becoming friends — she’s like, ‘you gotta listen to this album.’ I’m like, I’m not gonna listening to it. And then somehow, someway, I ended up listening to her. It was really good. All right. It’s good stuff. Like I listen to it.

Somehow, someway, it came on my headphones for pregame and then we won the game. So my thought was, ‘Oh, is this like a thing?’ So since college, I have to listen to at least one Bieber song before every game [which puts me in the right space]. I don’t know how but it’s the thing and then I became like an actual fan of [Bieber]. So it just happened.”

Jalen Brunson via New York Legacies with Ahmad Rashad

The Guardian’s Caroline Sullivan described ‘Purpose’ as an album with the songs serving as “a regretful look back and a fresh start,” which can also mirror Brunson’s journey this season.

A fresh start with the Knicks has allowed him to blossom into an All-Star caliber guard, which would be harder to achieve while playing as Doncic’s sidekick in the Western Conference dominated by All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

The album’s opening track, “Mark My Words,” aptly encapsulates Brunson’s purpose in his highly-scrutinized move to New York. The lyrics, “Mark my words, give you all I got,” resonates with the kind of leadership Brunson has brought to the Knicks.

It’s just 18 games, but Brunson has already stamped his mark on this middling Knicks team, raising hopes that they could sneak back into the playoffs with his solid play and some luck.

Brunson, a self-confessed Belieber, is what the Knicks fans need to believe in this team.

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