“It's been a perfect situation ... and I love the opportunity that's been given to me," Brunson tells PEOPLE about playing basketball in New York City
Jalen Brunson is trying not to think about being named an All-Star.
The sixth-year point guard, who’s in his second season with the New York Knicks, instead prefers to focus on another goal. “Win,” the 27-year-old tells PEOPLE succinctly, while talking about his new partnership with Catalina Crunch.
It’s certainly a welcome notion to long-suffering Knicks fans everywhere who have yearned year after year for their team to go deep into the playoffs. With only two appearances over the past decade — and a close-but-no-cigars Finals run nearly 25 years ago — the Knicks are used to being in rebuilding mode.
But this year, just like Brunson’s all-but-certain All-Star selection, things are looking promising. The Villanova alum arrived in New York via free agency from the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2022, signing a four-year, $104 million contract.
The news was a surprise to Mavs fans, but was seemingly the right move for the New Jersey native whose own dad, retired NBA player Rick Brunson, had accepted an assistant coach position with the Knicks just a month earlier.
Flash forward to 2024 and the younger Brunson is flourishing at a blistering pace, in a place where the media’s glare has proven a burden for some. But for the athlete, it helps that he has family in the area, and the fact that his head coach Tom Thibodeau has known him since he was 5.
“It's been amazing,” Brunson tells PEOPLE. “It's being a part of this organization, the city being close to where I was born and where I grew up, it's pretty special just knowing that my dad at one point played for this organization, and it brings back a lot of the memories from when I was younger.”
He adds, “It's been a perfect situation and I just love being here and I love the opportunity that's been given to me, and I just love being able to go out there and try and help a team win.”
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Brunson, who is averaging a career high almost-26 points a game, relishes his multifaceted role on the team. He’s not only the floor general but also a leader, working to help galvanize a dynamic group, which happens to include three of his college teammates from Nova — Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo and Ryan Arcidiacono.
The team’s chemistry was recently altered after RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley were traded to Toronto for OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa late last month, but Brunson is rolling with it.
"I've always viewed myself as being a leader, and so from that aspect, nothing changes,” Brunson says about the trade. “And so us, our job as teammates with all the new guys has kind of helped them get acclimated faster and so it's much easier when it's game time. Obviously we're going to have hiccups here and there, but the best thing we can do as teammates is help them feel like it's going to be a seamless transition.”
After getting married last summer to his high school sweetheart Ali Marks, the Knicks star is happy to spend his downtime with his new wife as well as their adorable pup, Kona.
And he’s also prioritizing his diet and nutrition — and that’s where his limited edition Catalina Crunch Honey Nut flavored cereal with almonds comes into play.
“For me, as you get older, you want to believe that you can stay the same way as long as you can keep doing the same things,” the sushi-obsessed Brunson tells PEOPLE.
“But, I mean, the older you get, the more you have to watch what you eat and the more you have to be more conscious about the things that you do because I mean you're not getting any younger. So basically I'm kind of preparing myself for my future,” he explains. “And so Catalina Crunch, it helps me in that way.”
He’s not so much making a fast break as he is inching towards a plant-based diet. But as for his love for nigiri and sashimi? “One-hundred percent, I can eat sushi every single day,” Brunson says.
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