Thomas Robinson and the Best Stories of the 2012 NBA Draft
I don't imagine anyone (other than, perhaps, Donald Trump) would bother to watch the NBA Draft if it were nothing more than four hours worth of college kids anxiously awaiting employment. As it stands, the draft doesn't exactly make for riveting television, unless you and your buddies play along with Jay Bilas.
That's not to take away, though, from all the humanist angles to which the draft lends gravity and gives birth every year. Many of the 60 kids lucky enough to hear their names called are the products of difficult upbringings or come complete with some other bits of backstory that render them vulnerable to the emotion of the moment.
The 2012 edition was no different.
Anthony Davis and the Million-Dollar Growth Spurt
The obsessive storytelling started right at the top with Anthony Davis' oft-told seemingly tall tale of a growth spurt for the ages.
Davis, as you may recall, went from being a lightly-recruited, 6'2'' shooting guard as a sophomore to a 6'11'' shot-swatting giant and the top prospect in the country as a senior in high school. That meteoric rise carried Davis to Kentucky, where he carried the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament title since the Rick Pitino era while establishing himself as the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft.
And now, just three years removed from being but the faintest blip on the basketball radar, Davis is a 19-year-old multi-millionaire who's been pegged as the next superstar savior of the New Orleans Hornets. What's more, he's only the second person in basketball history to be the AP Player of the Year, a national champion and the No. 1 pick in the draft in the same calendar year.
The first? Some dude named Lew Alcindor.
Two at the Top for Kentucky (and Six Wildcats Overall)
As spectacular a night as Davis had on Thursday, the biggest winners of all were John Calipari and the University of Kentucky. Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who went No. 2 to the Charlotte Bobcats, became the first pair of college teammates to ever occupy the top two spots in a single draft.
On the whole, Big Blue sent six players to the pros to set a new modern-draft record, with Terrence Jones (18th), Marquis Teague (29th), Doron Lamb (42nd) and Darius Miller (46th) standing in as the other four. What's more, Davis and Miller will get to rekindle their UK connection while with the New Orleans Hornets.
"Unfortunately" for Coach Cal, he fell one first-rounder short of tying his own mark of five players off the board within the first 30 picks, which he established just two years ago.
Say what you want about Calipari as a person or as a recruiting tactician, but there's no denying how successful he's been when it comes to preparing players for the draft. Just ask Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Brandan Knight and now Davis and MKG, all Cal products who went on to be lottery picks.
Thomas Robinson's Tragedy-Turned-Triumph
The most emotional story of the night, though, belongs to Thomas Robinson.
It's remarkable enough that Robinson went from a sparsely-used sub as a freshman to a reliable sixth man as a sophomore to an All-American and a National Player of the Year candidate as a junior while at Kansas. More remarkable, still, is how T-Rob's explosion on the basketball scene resulted in his meteoric rise up draft boards everywhere, to the point where he became the No. 5 pick of the Sacramento Kings in the 2012 NBA Draft.
But the sheer joy of Robinson's rise is rendered immeasurably more extraordinary by the pain and struggle that he's had to endure in his personal life. In the span of three weeks during his sophomore year, T-Rob lost his grandmother, his grandfather and his mother Lisa. That essentially left him with no family to turn to aside from his sister Jayla, considering that his father had never been player a significant part in his life.
Rather than shrink in despair, though, Robinson used the memory of his loved ones as motivation to work even harder towards his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.
A goal that he'll officially achieve when he takes the court in a Kings uniform next to DeMarcus Cousins this fall.
The Rivers Family Connection in New Orleans
The intrigue surrounding Austin Rivers' selection by the New Orleans Hornets has as much to do with his star-studded partnership with Anthony Davis as it does with the strong family ties that likely landed him in the Big Easy.
Austin's dad, of course, is Doc Rivers, the current head coach of the Boston Celtics. As it happens, Doc was once teammates with Hornets GM Dell Demps and head coach Monty Williams, and later coached Williams when the two were employed by the Orlando Magic. Demps and Williams, then, knew Austin long before he was a prep phenom in Winter Park, Florida or a shooting star at Duke.
So now, Doc's son plays for a guy who once played for Doc, on a roster assembled by another guy who played with Doc.
I'm still trying to figure out how Kevin Bacon fits into this equation.
A Military Salute for Bernard James
It's not every year that a 27-year-old is drafted into the NBA, much less to chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" from the attendant crowd.
Then again, it's not every year that a military veteran emerges from the collegiate ranks with the requisite talent to compete for a job in The Association.
Yet, that's precisely the situation in which Bernard James found himself on Thursday night. The senior center out of Florida State spent six years in the United States Air Force, during which he served three tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar. The Cleveland Cavaliers made him the 33rd pick in the draft before shipping him off to the Dallas Mavericks, where his maturity and professionalism (not to mention his ability as a rebounder and shot-blocker) will make him a welcome addition to a perennial playoff contender.