Roni Toppin got a one-of-a-kind experience at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday: hearing 16,000 fans chanting her son's name.
New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin provided a spark in his team's come-from-behind, Game 2 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
His key contribution came in the fourth quarter when he successfully defended a possession, first closing out hard on a three-point shooter to deny the shot, then stripping the ball from the Hawks' Kevin Huerter. On the ensuing fastbreak, Toppin slammed home an alley-oop to give the Knicks an 81-75 lead with just under 11 minutes to play.
The MSG crowd erupted and moments later began chanting his name.
Cameras later caught Toppin's mom in the stands, wiping away tears.
Toppin finished with just 8 points on 2-of-4 shooting with 3 rebounds in 12 minutes, but the Knicks outscored the Hawks by six in his time on the court. His energy provided a lift for the team.
That the chants took place at MSG likely made the moment all the more surreal for Toppin and his mother. The Toppins grew up in Brooklyn, New York.
Obi was a late bloomer and only played one year of varsity basketball before doing a year of prep school, then going to Dayton on a scholarship. He redshirted his freshman year, then played two seasons at Dayton, earning National Player of the Year in his second season before entering the NBA draft.
Toppin grew up a Knicks fan and was overwhelmed on draft night, shedding tears in his interview after the Knicks selected him with the eighth overall pick.
Roni shared a photo of Toppin as a kid in a Knicks jersey.
It was a bumpy rookie season for Toppin, who often struggled with his shot, the speed of the game, and avoiding fouls on defense. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau kept Toppin on a short leash throughout the season, pulling him from the game quickly after mistakes.
Toppin, however, has seemingly caught up to speed in time for the playoffs. While he's only played limited minutes in two games, Toppin has raised his scoring average, shot the ball more efficiently, given good effort on defense, and given energy off the bench.
The Knicks' Game 2 win on Wednesday ensured they will return to MSG for a Game 5 where Toppin will likely receive more huge ovations.