NEW YORK — It started early in the 2017-18 season at Oklahoma, when freshman guard Trae Young, college basketball’s newest sensation, started to irritate fan bases with a spectacularly smooth game and confident style befitting a future first-round draft pick.
Once opposing fans got some personal information about him, like his ornithophobia — a fear of birds — amid constant comments about his hair, it gave them another reason to jeer him.
Their disdain grew with Young pulling up from 30 feet half a dozen times a game, finding open teammates with dazzling passing and making a virtual home at the free throw line. His villain status was cemented.
On Sunday, Young brought his show to Madison Square Garden, scoring 32 points, including the game-winning floater with 0.9 seconds left, to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 107-105 victory against the New York Knicks in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round matchup.
Size up the defense, cross over, float it up and score.. EVERY ANGLE of @TheTraeYoung’s game-winner! 📸@ATLHawks seek a 2-0 series lead Wed. at 7:30pm/et on TNT. #NBAPlayoffspic.twitter.com/WOgFyhgCSJ
"I’ve always looked at it that I’m doing something right if I’m affecting them with my play that much that they hate me that much," Young said. "I’m obviously doing something right and just got to let my play do the talking.
"When you’re in the zone, and everybody’s chanting 'F you!' … it got real quiet at the end. And for me, I wanted to hear those 'F you!' chants again."
Even New York City mayor Bill de Blasio chimed in and called out Young, accusing him of "hunting for fouls."
But Game 2 was more of the same Wednesday. From the time Young stepped on the court during pre-game warm-ups, he took his new eminence in stride, embracing the ambiance with the dismissive style of a wrestling heel.
Between the "F Trae Young " chants and other unsavory language (Knicks fans clearly didn’t care about the consequences of such behavior stated on the MSG jumbotron), the atmosphere was befitting a city eager for any success in the midst of a five-decade championship drought.
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