Anthony Edwards paid tribute to his mother and grandmother. Onyeka Okongwu remembered his brother. Obi Toppin was thinking about coming home.
Tears flowed freely for those and many more players on Wednesday night when their long-awaited, repeatedly delayed NBA dreams were finally realized.
Edwards was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 1 pick in an NBA Draft delayed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Commissioner Adam Silver announced the choice of ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. The concept was originally scheduled for June 25, before multiple delays caused by the virus pushed it back out and out of its usual home at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Boxes of hats were shipped to the best prospects to attract those they needed after their name was mentioned.
Edwards watched as he sat next to the portraits of his dead mother and grandmother. They both died of cancer and he was emotional after his name was announced.
“As for being excited and just happy and ready to go and ready to work and ready to get there asap, those emotions were overwhelming because only my mom and grandmother were there,” Edwards said. “I mean it was just a dream come true and just a blessing.”
And while there wasn’t the usual family table in the green room and took the stage to meet the commissioner, some players were still outfitted in fashionable attire – perhaps none other than No. 12 pick Tyrese Haliburton of Sacramento, whose blue, floral suit had the words “Black Lives Matter” on the inside.
They celebrated with family, friends, coaches – and in the case of Cole Anthony, even famous fans. Film director Spike Lee jumped up and down with his family when Orlando Anthony, whose father, Greg played for the Knicks, took on number 15.
Some moments triggered deeper emotions. Okongwu, number 6 taken by Atlanta, remembered his older brother, Nnamdi, who died in a skateboarding accident in 2014.
Toppin, the national player of the year last season at Dayton, struggled to speak after the New York Knicks put him at number 8 and brought the Brooklyn-born to his hometown.
“I’m from New York, that’s why it’s important,” said Toppin. “I represent my city, it’s great.”
Edwards became the 11th consecutive one-and-done player to be the No. 1 choice, within a year when there was no obvious obvious choice. He averaged 19.1 points for the Bulldogs, the highest of all freshmen.
The Golden State Warriors, stung by the news that Klay Thompson suffered another leg injury earlier Wednesday, took down Memphis center James Wiseman with second-choice. They stumbled to the bottom of the league as Thompson missed all season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
The severity of his injury was not revealed when the service began, but it didn’t convince the Warriors to take another guard. Instead, they went with the 7-foot-1 center arriving as the high school’s # 1 recruit, averaging 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games before being suspended for eligibility and eventually left the program to prepare for the design. .
LaMelo Ball then went to the Charlotte Hornets, the next stop on a long basketball journey that sent the California high school security guard to a professional stop in Lithuania and Australia. He joined Brother Lonzo, number 2 by the Lakers and now in New Orleans, to give the Balls two brothers who are in the top three.
The newcomers will have precious little time to prepare for their debut and will have to stall months of rust or more – Wiseman hasn’t played an organized game in a year – without the benefit of the summer league. Training camps will open in early December and the 2020-21 season with 72 games will start on December 22.
“This design process has taken the longest for me, so I just worked on my game,” said Wiseman. “I’ve actually already played pick-up games with pros, so I’ve gained a lot of experience. But really just focus on myself. I am really ready to play with these great guys. “
Teams had to evaluate prospects without taking advantage of the usual Chicago design combination or the opportunity to invite them to their facilities for training and meetings. And with the coronavirus stopping the sports world in March, there was no NCAA tournament for the players to make a final impression before starting the trek.
That added to perhaps more questions than usual about design, with little sense of how the best choices would turn out.
The Chicago Bulls took Patrick Williams of Florida State, the ACC’s sixth man of the year freshman, to No. 4. Cleveland followed with Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, another freshman, to round out the top five.
In the second half of the top 10, a pair of highly regarded international players in France’s Killian Hayes, taken by Detroit, ranked No. 7, and Deni Avdija, the tallest player to come out of Israel when Washington chose him at No. 9.