Harlem native Mo Bamba made his Madison Square Garden debut for the Orlando Magic against the New York Knicks on Sunday.
“When you’re playing on the playground, in your imagination, you’re on the floor at Madison Square Garden,” Bamba told amNewYork before his team’s 115-89 victory.
Bamba, who attended his first Knicks game in 2010, still remembers some of the little things about that evening.
“I liked Al Harrington because of the way the PA announcer would say his name” he said.
The 20-year-old has come full circle since that game. He recalled watching former Knicks center Timofey Mozgov, who is now his teammate in Orlando.
“I remember Mozgov. It was like his debut game. You caught a put back of some sort,” Bamba said while seated next to his fellow big man in the visiting locker room.
Magic head coach Steve Clifford talked about the improvements he sees in Bamba thus far.
“The best big guys, in terms of the offensive side of the ball, need to be well-rounded,” Clifford said. “He can shoot 3s. He can pass the ball, and he’s developing ways to play.”
On Sunday, Bamba equaled his career-high of 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in just under 18 minutes. The humble first-year pro, who admitted after the game he was nervous when he first stepped on the floor, deflected credit to others when asked about the keys to his recent success.
“My teammates,” he said. “They’re getting me the ball. And the general pace of play; I’m really learning the speed I can play at.”
Bamba, who was selected by the Magic with the sixth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft after playing his freshman season at Texas, is becoming well known to more than just basketball fans. The 7-footer has a Billboard 100 Top 10 single named for him. “Mo Bamba” was written and performed by his childhood friend, rapper Sheck Wes, also of Harlem. The quick-witted rookie joked that the hit track already is wearing thin on him.
“It’s really annoying now, I’m not going to lie. T Ross [Magic teammate Terrence Ross] is like the captain of making sure I hear it every day," Bamba said. "It’s just awesome for me and awesome for Sheck and his career. It shows the will of hard work and where we come from.”