There Are NBA Players With Interesting Podcasts, And Then There’s Michael Porter Jr.

During a December episode of Michael Porter Jr.’s podcast, Curious Mike, the Denver Nuggets wing asked his teammate Nikola Jokic, “Where do you see yourself in how you live in 15 years?” Jokic replied that he wants to be with his family, but mostly his horses. “Spend the rest of the day with the horses, you know,” he said, grinning. “I have a couple horses outside of Serbia, in Italy, in Sweden, in France. Go, maybe race. Actually that’s kind of my secret goal to be a driver, to have fun, travel the world or Europe and race horses. That sounds fun.” Porter Jr. stared blankly over at Jokic for a few seconds before chiming in, “Yeah, that sounds like a good life, I’m the same way.”

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This kind of unintentional comedic timing is possibly the only strength of Curious Mike. Porter Jr. has hosted the show on and off for three years, mostly under the radar until recently, when he interviewed retired porn actress Lana Rhoades. That episode, released on April 7, put the world on notice: Michael Porter Jr. has a podcast, and he isn’t qualified to have a podcast. While occasionally insightful and often baffling, the conversation featured a moment in which Rhoades talked about the trauma of having to pretend to enjoy something she didn’t, to which Porter Jr. kind of half-chuckled and said, “Nah, that’s definitely tough.”

This is the golden age of the player podcast. LeBron James and JJ Redick recently rolled out Mind the Game, which racked up more than 500,000 YouTube subscribers within a month of its launch. As Jay Caspian Kang wrote in the New Yorker, Mind the Game both brings the audience along for a discussion of the game at a granular level while also “giving them the emotional, great-man moments they want.” While most aren’t as focused on breaking down players, there are plenty of options out there: Paul George hosts a wildly popular podcast; so do Jeff Teague, the duo of Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Draymond Green, and Patrick Beverley. The appeal of these shows is the supposedly unfiltered nature. Without the mediating layer of an interviewer, players are free to tell the stories they want to tell and frame conversations on their own terms, with no prying questions. But that lack of filter works both ways: Sometimes you end up with something like Karl-Anthony Towns claiming that the Timberwolves’ first-round exit last season was more special than the Nuggets’ championship.

Curious Mike is not particularly interested in any of this. Porter Jr. has released 17 full episodes since July 2021, with the range of guests including current and former Nuggets teammates, Christian influencers, and the occasional pop scientist. His sister Cierra, who came up with the show title, used to do bonus episodes with him, though the show hasn’t published one of those since last July. Typically Porter Jr. and his guest will sit opposite each other and riff for about 45 minutes on life, basketball, or his guest’s area of expertise. Almost every episode is shot in a different place, presumably incorporating the demands of an NBA schedule.

“I’ve always been someone who has had a lot of questions,” Porter Jr. said in the show’s introductory episode. “I’ve always felt like I’ve thought differently than a lot of people, always just thought about the deeper things in life. And that has gotten me into trouble at times, because, you know, Twitter or Instagram, they’ll take like short clips of what I would say, and then the whole world would see it and then they’d get a picture of who you are as a person.” This is a particularly funny point for him to make—a person in the industry who has worked on player podcasts recently told me that the point of these shows is less about getting 45 minutes of good conversation and more about generating a few clips to go viral on Instagram or TikTok. This person also added that Curious Mike “is both highly produced and looks like shit.”

That homespun look can be charming when the expectations are low. The guest for an August 2021 episode was Porter Jr.’s great-aunt Nancy. The interview ended with them doing planks together as she asked him, “When did you really accept Christ in your heart?”

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To the extent that the broader basketball public is familiar with Porter Jr.’s off-court life, they may know him primarily as a dumb guy. He comes from a basketball family recently in the news for bad reasons. Previously, he has been reprimanded by Adam Silver and Snapchat for suggesting that COVID-19 is “being used for population control in just terms of being able to control the masses of people,” accidentally posted Silver’s personal cell phone number, and made some idiotic remarks (on someone else’s podcast) regarding the WNBA pay scale. This can leak through into the unfiltered podcast: Whoever produces Curious Mike didn’t feel the need to cut the portion in which Porter Jr. voices his concern about unnamed NBA players “messing with trannies.

There’s really no reason for Curious Mike to exist, a show notable because of how ponderous and unnecessary it is. Porter Jr., a charisma void, has succeeded only in showing the gap between the replacement-level player podcast and the good stuff. It’s clear now that not any hooper can sit in front of a mic for that long before getting themselves in trouble. Despite his best intentions, Porter Jr. has made a podcast best consumed in 45-second snippets, because there’s no context that would make it better.

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