To all those who read this,
Sitting in SFO with an unanticipated two hour flight delay gives me the rather fortuitous (for the circumstances, at least) opportunity to reflect on what has to be one of the bigger thrills of my adult life.
In some ways, being a draftnik has been a part of me as long as being a sports fan. It takes a unique place in the sporting world as it combines a transition in talent with a transition in terms of a person’s career. Even the biggest college players are making a jump to whatever professional league they enter, likely the first time they have ever made meaningful money playing sports (unless they went to U$C, of course). While many people ignore this component of the process, I have always found it to be incredibly interesting because of all the changes it can mean for these young men. The pressures of going to school and maintaining a social life while playing sports at a high-level are hard to overstate yet pale in comparison to the amount of work it takes to thrive in the best leagues in the world from a physical standpoint.
The other fun part of the draft is that it combines research, analysis, and prediction in a way that stands out. While there are no clear-cut answers most of the time, draft pieces hold relevance and interest for an incredibly long time after the fact because it often takes a while to find out the “right” answer should one exist. Furthermore, there can be gaps in terms of both information and interpretation of that information and reasonable minds can differ in more ways than are present in normal sports discussions. Think about the MLB draft for a second- even big money teams have used completely different philosophies and thrived with similar resources because there are a variety of methods that can work. While that point holds, there are also some who succeed more than others and learning from evaluation mistakes takes on a different light in the draft because the same players never come by again. You have to attempt to apply those learned components on individuals who may or may not fit that box. The uncertainty makes drafts continually interesting and challenging.
For all of these reasons and many more, I gravitated to drafts at a pretty young age. Despite not watching a ton of basketball as a child, I used to take the limited amount of March Madness available to a kid in the late 90’s and try to figure out which guys would be stars and which ones would be duds. Doing that for years in both hoops and football also gives someone bizarre allegiances since the pride in being right on a player sometimes trumps lower-level personal biases. As an example, I have spent years rooting for Danny Granger and Russell Westbrook because each was a player I touted for eons and thus have an emotional stake in their fights however frivolous it may be.
That fascination for drafts only kicked into a higher gear when college started. The reams of hand-written pages got replaced by pages of typing along with more complicated rankings and analysis. The rise of draft content on the Internet and competent internet message boards also forced everyone to step up their game and learn from those around them in a brand new way. Writing draft previews, reviews, and season predictions actually served as the only sportswriting I did for nearly ten years.
As I was starting law school, two of my good friends from college let me know that they were starting a blog and that I was welcome to do any writing for it that worked. It felt like a logical method to blow of the intellectual steam law school inevitably generates (you can see this from the amount of law students and lawyers that engage in sportswriting). From the start, the draft was my passion and it eventually became the place where my relationship with RealGM began and one of the important places it continues to this day.
In many ways, the trip to cover the NBA Draft marks both an accomplishment of one of my biggest dreams and someone to check off the bucket list that I never anticipated fulfilling, much less this quickly and in this capacity. It is both humbling and gratifying to see the effort and time it has taken and consider how many other worthy people have never had the opportunities that have been presented to me over the last few years. That leads to my predominant emotion being appreciation for all those who have made this possible. Instead of naming specific people and this contributions, I will say this: the people who were integral in getting here know who they are and should remember that they have my eternal thanks and appreciation for doing so. If they want public recognition for that role, they can ask me and it will be given.
Even with that, two specific people get some mention here. Rahim and Derrek started Vegan Fish Tacos and brought me into the fold nearly immediately and offered encouragement before anyone other than the three of us and our college friends had any idea what we were doing. Without their push, support, and input, none of this ever would have happened. Guys, you likely will never know how pivotal a role you played in any and all of my writing success. So if anything bad happens, that means it is your fault. Everyone else: thanks so much- you know who you are.
Whether this ends up being a stepping stone to something bigger or a blip on an otherwise uneventful path, everyone who made it this far had a reason to or plenty of free time- my key demographics. Thanks for being a part of this run and here’s to hundreds more stories and pieces to come.