This was so sad.
It was a heartwarming story for all of 20 minutes or so. The Sixers selected Mikal Bridges, a local Villanova prospect, with the No. 10 pick. Not only would Mikal stay close to where he won two championships, he’d be working in the same organization as his mother, Tyneeha Rivers, who is the Sixers VP of human resources.
And Mikal kept answering questions with the media without knowing. MORE brutal.
The two were so happy when he got drafted to Philly:
And then it was all gone. Without him knowing.
mikal bridges is wearing a sixers hat talking about how excited he is to play with joel and ben rn, but shams just tweeted he’s being traded... pic.twitter.com/Bpmmg7GObx— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) June 22, 2018
This feels so cruel.
I don’t want to be there when he and his mother find out what happened.
TRADE HIM BACK TO PHILLY. The NBA Draft’s warmest story got cold way too quick.
The Spurs’ draft pick has thoughts about the moon landing, the earth, and whether or not Adolf Hitler escaped Germany
One thing he’s not is boring.
Walker is an outspoken free thinker who hasn’t been shy to share his opinions on everything from conspiracy theories to his ranking of the best Frank Sinatra songs in the lead up to this year’s draft. The Miami (FL) freshman has been one of the most consistently entertaining interviewees of the predraft process, showcasing the personality of a man who never intends to stop learning.
Of course, that inquisitive nature has led him to question most of our natural world. Walker has thoughts about conspiracies ranging from the moon landing to who built the pyramids to whether or not humans descended from a race of giants. He also spent the afternoon leading up to the draft spending Postmates credits on food for his fellow potential lottery picks, then tweeting them pictures of it (while also hyping up his own fitness).
Walker’s a unique guy. Here’s just a sampling of his notable takes, which there will certainly be more of as he makes the leap from one-and-done college star to the NBA.
The earth is not flat... My conspiracy, the earth is definitely an illusion.
Just because you see things in the sky, doesn’t mean it was there. The background, the surroundings. Y’all tried to make it look too much like a moon. The details were almost too great. You’re doing too great of a job. There’s no way it looks this nice or is this well done.
“One of my favorite ones is the whole Hitler thing. Them supposedly dying. Him and his wife. That whole allegation. I just feel like as a great powerful leader, there was no way you were by yourself in a house and you died, whenever it shall be. It just doesn’t add up. … He definitely escaped.”
I’m a spork. It’s universal.
On whether or not a jaguar could bring down an ostrich in the wild:
Ostriches are fast, and they’re big, and if they kick you, they can really kill you or hurt you.
OK. Those last two actually make a lot of sense.
Embiid has zero chill.
Not so fast. Embiid wanted no parts of the Ayton for one simple reason: The 76ers’ All-Star actually plays defense.
Don’t compare Ayton to me either... I play DEFENSE— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 22, 2018
And of course, Draymond Green had to chime in.
Ayton had his shortcomings defensively, but those areas are correctible and he could turn them into his biggest strengths in the NBA. Until he does, though, man is Joel Embiid savage or what?
Dallas isn’t just putting money on the Slovenian wonder to translate to the NBA — but that he and a free agent can put the Mavericks back in the playoffs.
The Mavericks swung a bold trade at the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday, moving up two picks to pick Luka Doncic at No. 3 in exchange from their own No. 5 pick — Trae Young, eventually — and a top-5 protected 2019 first-round pick.
This is really a synthesis of two bets.
The first bet is on Doncic, the Slovenian wunderkind aptly nicknamed Wonder Boy. Luka is a 19-year-old swingman who just won three major championships in three years. He and Heat point guard Goran Dragic led Slovenia to its first ever EuroBasket championship in 2017, with Doncic (then 18 years old) making the all-tournament team. Then, Doncic led Real Madrid to the EuroLeague and Spanish ACB league titles, winning MVP honors in both competitions.
Doncic is one of the best draft bets made in the last five years. The EuroLeague is the top basketball competition in the world outside of the NBA, and Doncic was its best player at age 19. By every statistical and scouting indicator, he is the best European prospect ever.
The Mavericks have a little bit of experience with elite Europeans, as you may recall.
During the draft, every team is making bets on certain players and, implicitly, against other players they pass up. While Doncic did slip to No. 3 in the 2018 derby, there is little belief anywhere he won’t be a good pro, and perhaps a great pro. This is a bet, but it’s a pretty safe one.
The bolder bet is that the Mavericks, with Doncic, will bounce back quickly and won’t regret giving up a potential lottery pick in 2019.
Dallas did smartly protect the future pick heading to Atlanta through the top five. That means that if the Mavericks’ 2018-19 season is pure disaster, or if it’s simply mediocre but the Basketball Gods smile upon Dallas in the reformed NBA lottery, the team might keep its pick and add to the roster. But odds are that with Doncic, a nearing-retirement Dirk Nowitzki, exciting young Dennis Smith, Jr., and solid Harrison Barnes, plus an intent to win from the start of the season, the Mavericks can actually be decent.
Grabbing Doncic is worth losing a late lottery pick in 2019. If the Mavericks make it back to the playoffs next season, the pick sent to Atlanta will be a total afterthought, especially if Doncic is a huge reason for Dallas’ quick revival.
What the Mavericks are betting here is that they don’t actually need to rebuild.
Dallas clearly tanked this season. Once the team got off to a poor start, the Mavericks no longer had an incentive to win. Young players went hard, and while franchise owner Mark Cuban was fined for comments on tanking, the team wasn’t egregious in its attempts to boost lottery odds. Regardless, it was just one season. Dallas was bad in 2016-17, but not intentionally.
But teams engaging in a multi-year rebuild — like the Sonics/Thunder a decade ago, or the Sixers five years ago — don’t trade future picks to get better prospects now. They do the opposite: they stockpile picks and angle to land top talent out of the draft multiple years in a row.
The Doncic trade tells us the Mavericks have no interest in following that path. That they have no interest tells us they think they have a better path back to winning basketball.
The Mavericks also have cap space! With a hole at center, we’ll see if Dallas can land the big man they’ve been chasing for years. Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan are both free agents again, and they are some other options expected to be available on the trade market. Rick Carlisle told reporters Thursday night that the Mavericks are ready to fill holes in free agency, and we know Cuban is ready to spend.
Reporter: “A lot of people think the Mavs we’re going to take a big man, how would you address those people”— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) June 22, 2018
Rick Carlisle: “July 1st is right around the corner”
The only question is whether the front office can actually land someone this time around.
That could effect just how well this instant reboot goes for the Mavericks. Dallas is all in on it, though, and it looks mighty wise at this moment. We’ll see if it pays out soon enough.
By Matt Ellentuck, Jun. 18, 2018
Not only is Doncic proven by dominating the best competition he possibly can be at 19 years old, he projects to fit the NBA’s high demands from day one. Unlike the next-best prospects available, you don’t have to imagine much with him. He has the receipts.
Consider Doncic’s accomplishments. Last summer, he helped lead Slovenia to the EuroBasket championship, making the all-tournament team at the age of 18. This season he won EuroLeague MVP, EuroLeague Final Four MVP, EuroLeague Player of the Week four times, first-team All-League, EuroLeague Player of the Month once, and the EuroLeague Rising Star award as he led his team to championship.
By Ben Collins, Mavs Moneyball, before the trade
After a decade of this, I am now acutely aware of Rick Carlisle’s often severe and dramatic whims. I have seen him drag rookies off the court for getting lost on a pick and roll, only for them to resurface months later in dark gyms on teams that sound like Outkast albums. (Both Rodrigue Beaubois and Shane Larkin went to Baskonia, where they tore it up, but quietly and respectfully, as not to prove Carlisle wrong.)
Luka will not be party to this sort of wack-ass treatment, and it’s in part because of Carlisle’s desperation for penetration from lead guards in his offense, which he will never change, even if his point guard is, say, OJ Mayo, Mike James, Jose Calderon, Delonte West, 47-year-old Devin Harris, or 2016’s most effective penetrator, the Mesozoic rock formation commonly known as “JJ Barea.”
Imagine a 6’8” version of that with better ball skills than any of them, and Harden-like moves.
At No. 14, the former top recruit in the country is worth the gamble, regardless of his medical history.
It was only a year ago that Michael Porter Jr. was on top of the basketball universe. He was easily the best hooper in high school basketball; it wasn’t a debate. And he was primed to set the court on fire as an undoubted one-and-done at Missouri.
But just two minutes into his first game as a Tiger, Porter checked out. He put an ice pack on his hip, an injury a team spokesman deemed a “tweak.” The basketball world didn’t see him again until March 3. That hip injury morphed into herniated discs — yes, multiple — in Porter’s back that required virtual season-ending surgery. The highly anticipated freshman season never happened. He played the final two games of the season and ended his college career with averages of 10 points per game on poor shooting percentages.
That’s not who he is.
Porter Jr. was incredibly selective in disclosing his medical records, which ultimately cost him several spots in the draft. But if he’s healthy, and if that health reverts his body back to the player we saw in high school, the NBA had better get ready. Porter is a 6’10 forward with point guard ball skills, elite athleticism and range out to the NBA three-point line. If you could create a MyPlayer in NBA 2K18, he would probably be just like Porter — except without the scary back injury history.
The Nuggets took a chance on Porter at No. 14, and if he stays on the court, there’s no reason he can’t become the star we expected him to be. It’s a risky choice, but his upside is an offer the Nuggets just couldn’t refuse.
By Matt Ellentuck, March 8, 2018
Missouri and Porter waited four long months for this moment, and it’s important to remember all he’s gone through before playing just his second collegiate game ever. It was also on a huge stage in the SEC Tournament. The odds for him to play well were stacked against him.
By Matt Ellentuck, May 17, 2018
At 6’10 with a seven-foot wingspan, Porter has the ideal frame for a combo forward. That’s where he’ll fit in the league during a time when those players are valuable more than ever. It’s possible to see his fit as a franchise cornerstone.
By Ball from Grace, Grizzly Bear Blues
Even more encouraging than his handle is Porter’s jump shot. Porter’s shot is clean and smooth, and he’s comfortable shooting off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations. The question will be whether the shot returns. In his brief time post-injury, Porter’s shot never quite looked like what it had been. He required elevation to shoot; the lift wasn’t there in his two Missouri games.
Josh Matejka, Rock M Nation
If you noticed in his strengths section, there are a lot of, “good, not great” qualities listed. His handle, athleticism, physicality, and rebounding have all been more than enough to overpower everyone he’s ever played; he even looked pretty good when injured at Missouri. But as with any professional league, everyone is the best of the best. How those traits play against NBA defenders remains to be seen. Porter’s defense has also been questioned in the past. It’s not that he’s a particularly bad defender; he’s just never had to go full-stop against any of his peers. With his length and athleticism, he’ll be asked to guard a lot of scorers, so he’ll need to shake those concerns quickly.
Here’s everything you need to know about Porter’s injury that caused him to slide in the NBA Draft.
Michael Porter Jr., one of the nation’s best NBA prospects, suffered a back injury in the opening two minutes of his college basketball season that cost him all but two games, and required surgery he hasn't yet fully recovered from. Less than a week before the draft, he even canceled a workout in front of lottery teams because of muscle spasms so bad he couldn‘t leave bed, before deeming it back on.
In the hours the draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported that Porter was sliding due to concerns about his back and hip. Sure enough, Porter indeed slid out of the top 10, despite being in contention to go No. 2 overall.
What’s wrong with the spine of one of the NBA’s most promising teens? And is it bad enough that he should have slid this far?
In November, Porter had a minimally invasive back surgery called an L3-L4 microdiscectomy to treat herniated disks in his back. The discomfort was caused by small tears in the outer layers of the invertebrate disks that allowed important lubricating material to leak out.
“One analogy we use a lot is when you poke a hole a jelly doughnut,” Dr. Charla Fischer, a spine surgeon at NYU Langone Health, told SB Nation. “When you squeeze the jelly is gonna come out. If you don’t poke a hole, it’s going to be contained.”
Porter’s talent may have his injury in the spotlight, but herniated disks are not that unusual.
“That process of those small tears happens to everyone over time,“ Fischer says. “Genetics plays a small role, but over time everyone’s disks deflate like a tire getting worn down. In some athletes, if stress is being transferred to an area ... it’s a repetitive stress injury. Over and over, jumping up to catch rebounds, you’re getting stress in one area. Then you get these micro tears and the nucleus pulposus (jelly) comes out.“
Can the prospect once thought to have a higher ceiling than expected top picks Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic return to form? Will his back hold up over time, or is he destined to have career-long issues? When will Porter look better than he did at Mizzou?
Those questions still lie ahead of the 19-year-old, especially now that he’s slid in the draft.
Why did this happen to Porter?
Pinning down exactly what happened to Porter is difficult. He could be more susceptible to herniations because of his genetics, or maybe there was specific stress in that region of his back that started tears which caused the liquid to leak.
That could mean the specific motions of catching and coming down with rebounds, or possibly over-rotating his spine on passes. But the injury also could have been caused by life itself.
Fischer sees patients like you or I in for the same procedure Porter had. This injury isn’t reserved for athletes.
How’d Porter need surgery all of a sudden?
There wasn’t a single specific event that caused Porter’s injury to happen. It built up over time.
“Usually [patients] have this back pain that’s not severe, but there’s sort of a dull ache for a while,“ Fischer says. “And then it gets worse and worse and worse as those micro tears build up and then the [jelly] makes it’s way out, and that’s painful.
“Then it herniates into the canal and all of a sudden the back pain isn’t that bad and you have severe leg pain or numbness or tingling or weakness in the leg.”
That’s what was likely happening when Porter checked out of his first Mizzou game with a “tweaked hip.”
Porter Jr.’s surgery wasn’t as terrifying as it’s made out to be
There’s a stigma around back injuries in athletes, and while it’s an extremely dangerous part of the body to hurt, Porter’s surgery was minimally invasive.
“This is an outpatient surgery,” Fischer says, ”like if someone had a knee scope. So you’re only in the hospital for the day of the surgery and then you go home.”
Microdiscectomy surgeries typically last an hour, and patients leave the hospital the same day they walk in. Fischer says patients can walk around, eat, and use the bathroom immediately after waking up.
Porter wasn’t bed-ridden.
How was Porter‘s surgery performed?
“We make a small incision in the back,” Fischer says, ”and we have to get to the disk herniation so we have to go through some muscle of the back ... we have to go through some bone. So a small amount of bone we need to make a hole in in the back part of the spine. Then we protect all of the nerve roots, we get down to where the herniation is, remove all the material and that’s it.
“We’re only taking the part that has come out, we’re not going into the disk and taking everything out. Only the jelly that’s squirted out of the doughnut we take. We leave the rest of the jelly in.
“This is one of the least extensive surgeries you can have in the spine, it’s just still a spine surgery.”
How do patients typically feel after this surgery?
Better! Way better almost instantly.
“Most patients tell me they feel at least 50 to 80 percent better immediately after the surgery,“ Fischer says. “That’s because the jelly that comes out of the doughnut causes a huge inflammatory response in the area. It’s not just pushing on the nerve root, but it’s causing all these inflammatory factors to come in the area and cause an almost internal bruise. Once you remove that, all those factors go away and you feel a lot better.“
So why did Porter look so bad when he returned at Mizzou?
There have been enough lumbar spine injuries in the NBA for a team of doctors to conduct a specific report on it. This Sports Health study by Shobhit V. Minhas, MD, Benjamin S. Kester, MD, and Wellington K. Hsu, MD, takes a look at the recovery times for NBA players who’ve had the same type of surgery as Porter.
Using PER as a baseline, the study found that a patient won’t return to his typical level of play until his second season following surgery.
Porter returned to play four months after surgery, which Fischer said sounded about right for someone of his age and athletic abilities. But even if he’s fit enough to play, history says he’s still not going to be delivering peak performance immediately. It probably won’t be until his second NBA season that we see Porter at full strength.
But Porter nearly canceled workouts with back spasms that kept him in bed. Isn’t that bad?
“It sounds normal,“ Fischer says. “It seems like he had some leg muscle weakness from the disc herniation and has had to work on building strength back.“
Whichever team drafts Porter will have to stay patient.
What are his chances for re-injury?
This is the dangerous part in drafting Porter. He will heal from back surgery, and history says he should bounce back to full strength in two years, but he’s at risk for the same injury. NBA teams were sufficiently worried.
"The area where the jelly has come through the doughnut ... that heals over, but not with the same material you were born with,” Fischer explains. ”It fills in with fibrous tissue and scar tissue and it’s similar but not exactly the same. So that area is an area of weakness.
“There’s re-herniation rates of 10-to-12 percent over the next 5-to-10 years. I tell patients that all the time because I want them to know that if the symptoms come back we can start from square one ... Elite athletes need to get back to playing sports. If he had that again, he’d elect to do another surgery.”
Would a second surgery spell doom for Porter’s career?
Nope. It would not.
“It doesn’t affect his return to play,” Fischer says. ”It doesn’t affect his physical therapy, it doesn’t affect his chance of neurologic problems like weakness or numbness or tingling. Some patients say it hurts a little more because we’re going through scar tissue and that’s about it.“
So how worried should you be if your team drafts Michael Porter Jr.?
"These teams have an in-house spine surgeon or will have him evaluated by someone. He’ll be extensively evaluated before anyone decides if they want to draft him. He’s gone through the ringer, if he’s been picked that means he’s been picked by multiple spine surgeons and they agree his recurrence risk is low.”
Of course, that’s Fischer’s professional opinion, so please adjust that logic based on your team’s level of medical dysfunction.
“Whether or not he’s a higher risk, it’s hard to say. Other than being a weightlifter or bodybuilder or smoking, all these athletes are in peak shape. Out of someone who’s going to be a recurrent risk, he’s not doing anything that’s going to put him in a bad spot.
“Even if he didn’t look so good at the end of his current season, he could do well next year. He can definitely bounce back, and there’s enough NBA players who have this for there to have been a study just on NBA players with disk herniations. It’s not so rare that’s there’s only case reports in the literature. There’s a full study looking at 61 NBA players. It’s not a totally rare unheard of thing for NBA players to have microdiscectomies.“
Nobody wanted to be feared out of passing on a player with star potential, yet that appears to have been the case with Porter.
The terrific 76ers defense is only getting better.
Villanova’s Mikal Bridges is known primarily as a shooter. At least, he is these days. When Bridges joined the Wildcats, he was distinguished by long-limbed, athletic finishing ability, without much prowess from outside. He’s since sharpened that perimeter stroke to well over 40 percent as a junior, becoming one of the most well-rounded scorers, if not a distinct isolation threat, on one of college basketball’s most impressive teams.
Bridges’ defense, though, is what sets him apart. It’s what makes him so crucial to the Wildcats, and what’s going to make him a highly valued NBA prospect now that he’s joining the loaded Philadelphia 76ers.
He’s around 6’7 with about 7-feet of wingspan, and he’s got speed both shuffling laterally and springing off the floor. Those physical attributes combined with really impressive court sense make for a defender who can stop anyone. Like, really anyone. It’s not uncommon to see Bridges switching constantly through screens. He’s quick enough to shadow a penetrating guard and sizable enough to contest a big man in the post, so why not?
Particularly in the NBA, where coaches keep leaning into switch-happy, everyone-the-same-size lineups, one can imagine a player with Bridges’ size, skill, and intelligence really coming into his own, especially on a team with several other players like that.
He should slide in nicely next to Kristaps Porzingis.
If you could create the ideal type of player your team needs, odds are he’s between 6’7 and 6’10, can shoot the three and defend multiple positions. Sure, there are other attributes you’d like to add, like the brute strength of LeBron James, the unlimited shooting range of Kevin Durant, or the uncanny playmaking ability of a Giannis Antetokounmpo, but if you start from scratch, a solid two-way wing could drastically improve every team in the league.
Enter Kevin Knox, a 6’9 19-year-old prospect who could develop into exactly the kind of player the New York Knicks can fold into their future after selecting him No. 9 overall. Knox isn’t a star playmaker. He’s had difficulty creating offense off the dribble and isn’t the best rim protector for a player his size. But those are things that can, and likely will be improved on. His canvas as-is is enticing enough.
NBADraft.net compared Knox to Tobias Harris. DraftExpress found similarities between him and Paul George, while Kentucky head coach John Calipari drew comparisons to Jayson Tatum. Those are all best-case scenarios, but the talent speaks volumes to the type of player Knox has the potential to become.
The one-and-done Wildcat averaged 15.6 points per game for a Kentucky team that reached the Sweet 16. Calipari ran Knox off screens and used him (at times) as an iso-scorer, but the Knicks found his value most as a spot-up shooter out on the perimeter. He shot 34 percent from deep as a freshman. That number should improve as the years go on.
We don’t know what Knox’s ceiling is, or whether his career trajectory takes him the Jayson Tatum or Trevor Ariza route. But he has the tools at his disposal to, at the very least, become a serviceable 3-and-D wing for many years.
Knox was destined to be a great athlete from the start. He just didn’t know which sport it would be in.
Knox enrolled at Tampa Catholic as a high school freshman mostly known as a quarterback. At 6’4, he had NFL size for the position at 13 years old. He started on varsity as a sophomore and was considered an ESPN top 150 recruit as an “athlete.” He says he can throw a football 65 or 70 yards.
The only thing working against Knox’s football career is that he just kept growing.
”At the end of the day, it’s about physical dimensions,” his father Kevin Knox, Sr., an assistant coach with Each 1 Teach 1, told SB Nation. “Peyton Manning is 6’6. Cam Newton is 6’5. You don’t have too many 6’8 QBs. He’s still 16 years old. He’ll probably be 6’10 with a size 19 or 20 shoe. That doesn’t necessarily equate to a quarterback in the NFL, but those dimensions do translate to a possible NBA player.”
My NBA comparison for Knox is Portland Trailblazer Al-Farouq Aminu. Both players are 6’9 and have shown the ability to switch onto different positions on defense. Both can shoot the three at a respectable rate while being able to score in transition. However, I think Knox could be a better player than Aminu because of his athleticism and offensive versatility. A more lofty comparison for the former Wildcat is Paul George. Sure, Knox does not have all the reliable offensive abilities as PG, but there is a chance that he could achieve such skill. Through development, offseason improvement over many summers, and established coaching, the comparison between Knox and George may not be as far-fetched as it initially seems.
The Wojbomb cannot be stopped
The NBA didn’t want reporters leaking picks ahead of Thursday night’s NBA Draft, but eventually things got so out of control, it became a free for all. Still, vaunted draft night reporter Adrian Wojnarowski found ways to leak picks without explicitly stating one team was picking a certain player.
And the way he did it was brilliant — he just switched up the verbs he used on Twitter.
Source: Cleveland prefers Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 22, 2018
Chicago is zeroing in on Wendell Carter with the seventh overall pick, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 22, 2018
Memphis is locked in on selecting Jaren Jackson Jr., league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 21, 2018
Orlando is focused on selecting Texas center Mo Bamba with the sixth pick, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 21, 2018
Sources: Jaren Jackson Jr., has grown comfortable with the prospect of Memphis drafting him with fourth pick, and provided Grizz officials the requisite personal information they requested. Coach JB Bickerstaff played a big role in selling a vision for Jackson's future there.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 21, 2018
Sources: New York has been focused on Kentucky's Kevin Knox with ninth pick.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 22, 2018
CLEARED THE WAY
Source: Denver has cleared the way to choose Michael Porter Jr. with the 14h pick.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 22, 2018
Denver has been seriously considering Michael Porter Jr., with No. 14, league sources tell ESPN. They're deciding now.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 22, 2018
Phoenix is determined to select Zhaire Smith with 16.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 22, 2018
woj made it through 3 picks before he was like NO I TWEET THE SPOILERS THIS IS MINE— Whitney Medworth (@its_whitney) June 21, 2018
Guessing which adjective Woj is going to use next is the best part of this Draft so far.— Shahbaz Khan (@ShahbazMKhan) June 22, 2018
Woj is is considering on focusing on attempting to zero in on tweeting the NBA Draft without actually tweeting it— Hector Diaz (@iamHectorDiaz) June 22, 2018
live look at woj's laptop screen pic.twitter.com/AMds9NzyFE— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) June 22, 2018
Koko, the western lowland gorilla that began to learn sign language in the San Francisco Zoo and eventually became a celebrity beloved by millions, passed away in her sleep Tuesday at the age of 46.
Instructor and trainer Dr. Penny Patterson began teaching Koko a modified version of human sign language at an early age. In time, Koko came to use more than 1,000 signs of what [f500link]Patterson called “gorilla sign language” and could understand about 2,000 words of spoken English.
“Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy,” the Gorilla Foundation said in a statement. “She was beloved and will be deeply missed.”
Koko the gorilla has sadly died aged 46
Here's the story of her life pic.twitter.com/GFzfSvydcp
— BBC Earth (@BBCEarth) June 21, 2018
Through sign language, Koko was able to convey emotions such as empathy and grief. After reading picture books about kittens, Koko asked for a pet kitten of her own. When the kitten was later killed after being struck by a car, Koko “discussed” the death for several days afterward. She also learned to play the recorder, surprising scientists who thought the regulating breath was unique to humans.
Koko was featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine twice and made memorable appearances with other celebrities such as Robin Williams, Betty White, and Fred Rogers.
In a 1978 National Geographic article recounting some of her conversations with Koko, Patterson talked about the time a reporter asked Koko: "Are you an animal or a person?"
Koko, Patterson recalled, replied instantly: “Fine animal gorilla."