Just a mere 10 hours before the start of this year's NBA Finals, its not a bad idea to take a look back and see how each team got to where they are today. The Magic lucked out and won the lottery and then had the guts or foresight (however you want to look at it) to draft Dwight Howard.
They then built their team around him. The Lakers are arguably built around Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson. It's interesting to note that this pairing, back in 1996, may have formed in someone else's arena, the New Jersey Nets'.
Yes Ian O'Connor of the record wrote about this today..you can find his article here. O'Connor tells the story of the 96' draft in which the Nets held the eighth pick, but were scared away from selecting Bryant, in fear that he would bolt for Italy instead of playing for the Nets (Rubio anyone?)
And how the Nets tried luring Phil Jackson to a roster which was a "rebuilding project" which at the time was a knock on Phil Jackson, and I guess you could say it still is.
Either way read the article for the full details of both of those events, especially if your a Memphis Grizzlies fan because you may be in a similiar boat this year with Ricky Rubio. This article, however, reminded me of the 1996 draft class, and how good a class it was.
Here are some of the names you had in that class with the number pick they were in parenthesis. Allen Iverson (1), Marcus Camby (2), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3), Stephon Marbury (4), Ray Allen (5), Antoine Walker (6), Kobe Bryant (13), Steve Nash (15), and Jermaine O'Neal (17).
That is your crop of stars and all of those, with the exception of Camby, all went on to be the best players on their respective teams for years. You also had some other players who were main contributing factors to their teams, names like: Kerry Kittles (8), Erick Dampier (10), Peja Stojakovic (14), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (20), Derek Fisher (24), and Malik Rose (44).
This draft class had 10 all-stars and 11 if you count Ben Wallace, who was eligible for this draft but went undrafted. You had three different MVP's and four total..Iverson, Kobe, and Nash who won it twice.
That's an impressive class right there. As the draft approaches I think its interesting to take a look back at draft classes and see where guys fell and in this class Kobe going 13 looking back is pretty crazy, though it was noted that the Nets would have selected him at 8 had they thought he would have played.
Either way when the finals begin tonight and they are announcing the starting lineups, take note that the Lakers had the vision to draft their starting backcourt for the 2009 Finals 13 years ago in 1996.
Here is the full draft - 1996 NBA Draft