Thursday, June 25, 2009

Don’t Miss the NBA Draft --
A Reality Show With
More Drama than a Soap Opera

Darrell Arthur didn't take his draft pick disappointment lying down. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)

Last year, despite my grumbling, my husband convinced me that we should watch the NBA Basketball Draft. I assumed it would be more boring than watching golf or tennis. Boy, was I surprised! Talk about drama!

Tonight, the draft will air at 7 PM EST, ESPN (Channel 29 on Brighthouse in Orlando), broadcast live from Madison Square Garden.

Whether you like basketball or not, the draft offers a peak into the world of the celebrations and bitter disappointments of the hopeful soon-to-be-rich-and-famous of the athletic world. Dressed in their Sunday best and surrounded by loving and proud, mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, uncles and aunts, are the players who believe themselves to be the best of the very best.

The 30 NBA teams will get to pick in an order based on their season record, with the worst teams picking first and the best teams picking last in an attempt to even the playing field. The actual order is determined by a complex lottery. (An explanation is on Wikipedia. Here’s the 2009 draft pick team order on the NBA website.) Teams can also sell and trade away their “picks” as is the case with the Orlando Magic, who traded their picks to the Oklahoma Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. No one knows in advance what exactly will happen.

Although most players have an idea of their potential value, some will sadly be passed over. It can be gut wrenching. Last year, I watched as Darrell Arthur, a 20-year old who had just won the NCAA championship at the University of Kansas, got passed over time and time again. He was expected to be picked first or second. But, Round 1 was almost over and Arthur still had no team. Arthur’s family had come to celebrate with him and were now consoling each other in tears. Everyone at home, watching on TV, was rooting for Arthur. “Why won’t they pick him?” we all wondered.

Sports commentators hypothesized that he was rumored to have a health condition. It would be risky for a team to pick up a player who ends up too unhealthy to play – they would still be required to pay him over the length of his contract.

Arthur was finally picked 27th by the Charlotte Hornets on behalf of the Portland Trailblazers (God Bless team owner, Paul Allen), but then traded away. He’s now a healthy power forward for the Memphis Grizzlies. With Memphis having one of the most dismal records this year, they get the number 2 pick for two rounds, plus one of Orlando’s picks. Surprise, surprise, Arthur could be on a playoff winning team next year.

Some players drop out before the draft rather than face public humiliation. Others take the gamble that they could be picked just to fill up a roster.

From your armchair, you’ll find yourself yelling, “Pick Ty! Pick Jeff!” from your favorite college teams. When another player is chosen, you’ll yell, “No, not him, you idiot!” and throw Cheetos at the screen.

Here’s a great list of who’s who in the draft compiled by Chad Ford of ESPN.

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