Bernard James stood up on the recent 2012 NBA draft as the loud crowd cheered him while he shook hands with Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. This was the second round, a part where all the anticipation and hype died down.
James was chosen as the 33rd picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers and then traded to Dallas on a draft deal. Everybody on the half-filled Prudential Center was shouting U-S-A, U-S-A… as the 27-year-old rookie smiled on his way to the stage.
Six years ago, back when Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, was still learning basketball at a tender age; James was already doing his rounds as part of the United States Air Force.
He rose to the rank of staff sergeant and worked at a detainment facility in Iraq. Defense was always an importance─ guarding thousands of suspected terrorists in Camp Bucca in Iraq. His path to the NBA came as a mind boggling and rather peculiar.
For one, he was the oldest draftee selected since Dikembe Motumbo was drafted way back in 1991. Even then, Dikembe at that time was two years younger (25). James only played organized basketball when he was already in the military.
His college coach in Florida State, Leonard Hamilton had to convince him that his talent is enough to land him a college scholarship. And after being discharged, it was evident that basketball was his clear option.
James as a member of the Florida State Seminoles strived on what he knows really best… defense. In 2011, Sports Illustrated had James a step ahead of Washington Wizards and former Florida State defensive player Chris Singleton, as the most prominent college standout in defense.
Now, Bernard James will be playing with Dirk Nowitzki; he would be a vital role player who will help Chris Kaman securing the boards. His 6-foot-10 body is programmed to do one thing, swatting the ball or setting up screens, whatever it is, he would always be dependable.
You have to wonder why he slipped way below on the draft… it must have been his age or his rawness.
As the crowd shouted U-S-A…U-S-A, even though it was way past the second round, even if some people have started to leave the bleachers, they still supported Bernard James. Because even though he is already a man among the boys on the draft…they know he is special.