My Night at the NBA Draft

Last week’s NBA draft took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Take a behind-the-scenes peek at what it was like for the players and the journalists.  

The green room knows who will be drafted before everyone else.

Thanks to Mark Tatum, the NBA’s deputy commissioner, I was able to go in the backstage green room where he and Commissioner Adam Silver hung out in between draft picks with other basketball legends and VIPs.  Mark gave me the actual card they take on stage to announce the picks, which shows the draftee’s name, pronunciation if needed, and team. He even let me take a look at the cards minutes before they were announced on stage, but only if I promised not to Tweet the results out!

There may be a secret Australian government program to produce better NBA players.

Australia continued to dominate at the 2016 draft, with Ben Simmons and Thon Maker going in the top 10. This was not surprising because we also saw the NBA Finals showcase several great players from Australia, including Kyrie Irving, Matthew Dellavedova, and Andrew Bogut. I was able to get Maker to confess that the Australian government does have a “secret program” to build better NBA players, and it sure seems to be working.    

The on-stage handshake after a player is drafted is just the beginning of a long media circuit.

Everyone looks forward to the iconic hat and handshake moment as soon as a player’s name is announced in the NBA draft. What you may not know is that the player is immediately greeted by a member of the NBA staff when he steps off the stage to start a media tour that lasts several hours.

Players were transported into a world of cameras and lights that took them through the underground hallways and practice facilities at the Barclays Center. These areas were converted to host press conferences, live television interviews, and cool social media stunts.  

First, players go to the Interview Room, where international print journalists are seated and ready to ask them questions when they get up to podium.   

From there, the player heads to the Live Shot Room, where TV stations from around the world set up mini-studios with their camera crews and wait to interview the draftees live. The players go through more than 20 stations ranging from ESPN to CBS to China’s internet giant, Tencent. I was able to catch a couple of players here including the No. 6 pick in the draft, Buddy Hield, and the No. 14 pick, Denzel Valentine.

Each player also stops by the Social Media Room, where Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, and Weibo were handing out giveaways and had the players dribbling basketballs and signing autographs on a glass screen.

Buddy Hield’s nickname did not come from the movie Elf.

Other journalists were already asking the players about their basketball skills and draft experience, so I decided to take a different approach. When it was my turn to ask Hield a question at the press conference, I asked him, “Does your nickname Buddy have anything to do with the movie Elf or Will Ferrell?”

He laughed and told me that it actually came from the show Married with Children.

The players are all really nervous at the NBA Draft.

I noticed that almost every player talked about how nervous he was at the draft, including Ben Simmons, who told me his legs were shaking when he was on stage.

I also interviewed Tobias Harris, current Detroit Piston and the No. 19 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He told me about how it felt that night, only five years ago.

The fashion was incredible, and bow ties were the bomb.

The draftees put a lot of thought into what they were wearing. From Denzel Valentine’s socks, to Buddy Hield’s Bahamian flags sown inside his tuxedo jacket, to Taurean Prince’s Manolo Blahnick shoes, there was no shortage of bling and sharp designer suits.

Everyone knows that there was a record 14 international players selected in the first round of NBA Draft 2016, surpassing the previous record of 12 set in 2013. However, I believe there may also have been a record number of bow ties worn at the 2016 draft. Jaylen Brown, Valentine, Taurean Prince, Dejounte Murray, Kris Dunn, Hield, Jamal Murray, Juan Hernan-Gomez, Malachi Richardson, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender all sported them.  

When Bender was asked about his bow tie he responded, “I guess it's a new generation thing. It's great. It's cool.” I could not agree more.

Photographs courtesy of Max Bonnstetter


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