Nowadays, it’s become customary for collegiate and international prospects to turn up to the annual NBA draft with a little something special in the lining of their suit jackets to commemorate both reaching the world’s biggest league and the people, places and inspirations that helped them along the way. Five years ago, though, that sort of thing was only just coming into vogue, and as he prepared for the 2013 NBA draft, Pittsburgh center Steven Adams — better known now as the $100 million interior linchpin of the Oklahoma City Thunder — wound up getting a first-hand look at how an attempt to make a bold sartorial statement can backfire in a heartbeat on draft night.
In his new autobiography, “My Life, My Fight” — which also includes eye-catching anecdotes ranging from his past battles with depression and the time he couldn’t help but take a whiff of Gregg Popovich’s hair mid-embrace, among other revelations — the New Zealand-born Adams recalls his experience at the 2013 draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, waiting to find out where he’d wind up after a pre-draft process full of workouts, meetings, evaluations and uncertainty.
One of the things he remembers best: spending the five minutes before then-Commissioner David Stern announced which player the Cleveland Cavaliers would select with the No. 1 overall pick “staring at one of the other draft hopefuls, who was sitting with his entourage just a few tables away from us,” a “big star in the lead-up to the draft and was one of the favourites to be picked first” … and one of those prospects that Adams knew was wearing a statement-making suit.
The inside info came from a pre-draft fitting with “an agency that tailored for taller guys like [Adams]” to get them ready for draft night, according to an excerpt of “My Life, My Fight,” published by Stuff.co.nz:
I was told to collect my suit from the agency the day before the draft. When I walked into the room, the first thing I noticed was a Cleveland Cavaliers singlet laid out with the logo cut out. One of the women told me a player had asked for the Cavaliers’ logo to be sewn into the lining of his jacket. I thought that was bloody brave. No player knows for sure where they’re going to end up and no organisation knows for sure which player they’ll pick until they do it on the night. I had an inkling that I was going to go to Oklahoma City because of the way my visits there had gone, but I would never have dared tell anyone, let alone stitch the Oklahoma City Thunder logo into the lining of my suit.
I needed to know who the man was with the biggest balls in the draft. So while I was looking through the rack for my suit, I had a peek at all the other players’ outfits. All of them were pretty standard until I saw one that had a college team’s singlet number on one side of the lining and on the other was the logo of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I couldn’t believe this guy was that confident, and somehow I knew right then that the Cavaliers wouldn’t pick him first. The universe wouldn’t let anything work out that smoothly.
As it turned out, Adams’ faith in the cosmic order of things was well-placed, because the Cavs chose UNLV forward Anthony Bennett — whom very few prognosticators (or, for that matter, Bennett himself) had pegged as the No. 1 pick — rather than the unnamed logo-lined dude with the first overall selection. That, according to Adams, led to some consternation:
This guy’s table stared at the floor like someone had just died. I’ve never seen a group of people look so disappointed at such a joyous occasion. If the camera had cut to our table, it would have shown all of us with our mouths wide open, trying not to laugh. It was an amazing moment. […]
When this guy was finally selected, I watched as he flashed one side of his jacket and then held the other side shut while he shook David Stern’s hand on stage.
Now, if you’re like me, reading this excerpt immediately made you start wondering who “this guy” might have been.
Alas, Adams went out of his way to not name names while spilling the tea, so I guess that’s one of those unanswerable questions that NBA fans will just have to ponder like a zen koan forever. Or, at least, until the Thunder convene next month for their training camp, where Adams will both chat with Oklahoma City media and welcome new teammate and fellow 2013 NBA draft pick Nerlens Noel into the fold. Here’s hoping they’ll have something to talk about!
Hat-tip to Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk.
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