A Knicks-Loving Randle (Not That One) Takes to the Court

20 May 2024

After a Knicks playoff loss last week, Kyden Randle, the seven-year-old son of the Knicks All-Star Julius Randle, was playing in an A.A.U. game at Hoop Heaven, in Whippany, New Jersey. There were a few seconds left in the first half. “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” Randle shouted. He’d been out of the Knicks’ lineup since dislocating his shoulder in January, and was missing the team’s playoff run. “I knew going into surgery that it was going to fucking suck,” he said. “I knew we had a pretty special team.” Being available to attend Kyden’s games was a silver lining. “His tournaments revitalize me,” Randle said. “It really just makes me happy.”

Kyden missed a contested layup. “Rebound!” Randle yelled. Kyden did. “Go up!” Randle yelled. Kyden’s second shot fell short, and the buzzer sounded. Kyden’s team wore uniforms in orange and blue, like the Knicks. He had a pink sleeve on one leg. He looked toward his mother, Kendra, who offered reassurance: “Good try. It’s all right.” She noted, “It’s funny—all the other kids want Julius to say something to them, but Ky doesn’t.”

Randle and Kendra were watching from folding chairs on the sideline. He wore a gray velour jumpsuit and a black beanie. At halftime, children and parents lined up for photos and autographs. “I guess I’m the cool dad, but he also humbles me,” Randle said. “No matter how cool I am, he doesn’t want me hugging him in front of his friends.”

The family moved to New York in 2019, when Randle, then twenty-four, signed a three-year deal with the Knicks, who had just finished the season with the worst record in the N.B.A. “Things weren’t great,” he said. “They were shit.” But Randle blossomed, and so did the team. This season, in spite of a number of injuries, the Knicks posted the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Kyden became a fixture at games, where he has hung out with 50 Cent, Roger Federer, Aaron Judge, and Pete Davidson.

“Everybody is, like, ‘He’s your twin. He’s a mini you,’ ” Randle said, of Kyden. “I’ll find myself looking toward him during the game. He’ll be, like, ‘Pick it up!’ He’ll coach me: ‘Dad, you have thirty-eight points, you need to go get forty.’ I had fifty-something one game, and he’s, like, ‘Dad, you have this much more to break the record.’ I was just trying to win.”

For the playoffs, Randle decided to watch from the bench for most home games and from the couch for road games. “Honestly, I watch by myself,” he said. “Kyden’s not that interested unless I’m playing.”

Most Knicks players live outside the city, near the team’s practice facility, in Westchester, but Randle and Kendra chose a place in Manhattan. “I love being able to walk in Central Park and interact with people,” Randle said. “People look at me: ‘Bro, why are you just walking around the city by yourself?’ Because I’m a normal person.” He and Kendra met at a party as students at the University of Kentucky. She was studying fashion design and merchandising, and had been a serious basketball player in high school. There is a family-wide consensus that Kyden’s smooth jump shot comes from her. “He has the most natural, pretty shot,” Randle said. “I never had that as a kid.” He and Kendra also have a two-year-old, Jayce. “A mama’s boy,” Randle said.

The third quarter began. Kyden’s team was down big. A kid on the opposing team hit a turnaround jumper, and Randle said, “Luka!”—as in Dončić, of the Mavericks. On one possession, Kyden ended up on the floor, seemingly injured. “He’s faking,” Randle said. Kyden popped back up, fine and smiling. “He’s seen too many N.B.A. games.” On a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter, Kyden thought he was fouled but didn’t get the whistle. “Calm down,” Randle said. Kyden shot him a glare.

Kyden still wants his dad at all of his games. “When I’m not there, he’s, like, ‘Dad, where were you?’ ” Randle said.

The game ended, a lopsided 41–12. Bouncing around the gym nursing a bag of vending-machine potato chips, Kyden seemed unfazed. “I just try not to think about the last game,” he said. “I try to think about the good games in the past.” Kendra asked about his reaction to his dad’s sideline encouragement. Kyden let out a hammy groan. “I can’t do anything else!” he said. “He was telling me to do everything. To get the rebound. It’s, like, Give me a break!”

The conversation turned to his father’s missing the playoffs, and Kyden grew more serious. “I feel sad, because I really wanted to see him play,” he said. “I feel like if I’m playing, he should be playing.” ♦

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