Setting The Tone

Nate Kahl
2018 was the best year of my life. I can honestly say that with total confidence.

From getting drafted, to winning the inaugural NBA 2K League championship, but also in all aspects of life, too. It was just a great year. I’m extremely blessed.

The feeling of winning is obviously always a good one. But I think what made ours at Knicks Gaming different than most is that we went through so much adversity in the process.

We started like 3-7 at one point during the regular season and had a lot of trials and tribulations we were going through early on.

Simply put, we sucked.

Deep down we always knew we could turn it around. We knew we were a good team and a skilled team, we just had to kind of put the pieces together. Things started to come together as we made a run to win THE TICKET tournament to get into the playoffs.

A lot of people didn’t expect us to get there. A lot of people had us losing in every round along the way in the playoffs. So people kind of counted us out the whole time, but we were able to stay within ourselves and keep our mindset that we were confident we could win it all.

When won the finals, yes, we were excited that we won. But we were more excited given that we had gone through all that crap to get to that point where we could win the championship. It was an unbelievable feeling what we were able to accomplish.

That definitely made it a lot sweeter.

Still, the totality of what we accomplished didn’t fully set in the day of the finals. That was just pure joy and excitement at the point.

It probably varied from player to player, but speaking for myself, I would say like two or three days after I was just sitting in my room reflecting. “Wow, we really actually did that. We actually pulled that off.”

It felt pretty surreal, honestly.

On top of it all, it personally felt great to be named Finals MVP, no question about it. It’s a crazy, cool accolade. To be completely honest, and not to sound overly cliché, but it truly was a whole-team effort; from all five guys, to our sixth man, to our head coach, to the front office staff that put countless hours into making this happen.

Am I sad to not be able to go for the repeat with my brothers at Knicks Gaming? The answer is an easy one: I don’t think of it as sadness because what we were able to accomplish was so great and joyful.

Everything happens for a reason. They’re really good people over there, but I’m ready for the next stage of my career with Nets GC.

I went into the expansion process pretty level-headed, expecting anything to happen. A team could draft me, or I could end up without a team. It was all a possibility but I was calm and ready for whatever happened.

I think of my whole life as this everlasting chapter of which I have these little spots in between. It’s going to be a new adventure in Brooklyn. New challenges are going to be presented.

It’s going to be a different environment for sure, so figuring out how to navigate through that and hopefully being able to win, whether it’s this year or next year. That’s obviously the goal.

Being the first player in Brooklyn’s history, I fully expect to be the guy that sets the tone. Not just in terms of on-the-court play but also building a culture here.

With Knicks Gaming, it was a little different as I was the second guy brought into the team. With Nets GC, I’m going to have some different responsibilities. But make no mistake about it, I am fully prepared for that and the challenges it will bring.

I want to lead by example. It’s such an underrated thing. If you aim to set the precedent and set the tone, others will follow. Any team that has a good culture and foundation can go great places.

The key is going into it with the mindset that every guy is going to have to put aside their personal and individual stuff that they might want in favor of the betterment of the team.

I think that’s the culture we’re building in Brooklyn. Just a team-first mentality, everybody playing for each other, and I think that’s going to be how we set the tone here.

On top of everything else, it’s cool staying in the New York area. I love this city. Obviously, I’m from Milwaukee, but New York might be my favorite place in the world. I’m excited about being here again this season.

When it comes to playing, I’ve been asked if I’m the best defender in the league. I prefer to leave that conversation up to other people.

It’s a tough question because there are so many great defensive players in the league. I do think I’ve shown that I’m going to be a great defender for any team in any system, so I’m confident in my defence.

The one thing that separates me defensively from a lot of other players is I have the ability to really understand tendencies, especially after I have studied an opposing player.

It’s obviously a lot different when you’re playing in the league week-by-week and you can key in on a couple of matchups and you have five or six days to study them. So I think I just have a natural knack for understanding player tendencies.

I will say this about myself and a lot of other players in the community; we were playing at a very competitive level when it was just for free. When there was no money on the line. We all played just for the passion of the game, we enjoy the camaraderie and we enjoy the community.

To even think about even being in this position is crazy. It definitely has a dream feel to it.

I’ve always said that whenever I’m done, and I’m not even close to thinking I’m done, but whether its 2K or esports in general, I’d rather be remembered for the person I am than just the 2K player.

That’s how I’d want my legacy to be remembered.

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