NEW YORK — Basketball prospects from around the world witnessed their lives change right in front of their eyes last Thursday night during the 2023 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. For those who were unable to watch, here is a recap of what transpired.
It was a foregone conclusion for months that the 19-year-old 7’4″ French basketball star Victor Wembanyama would be the first selection in the 2023 NBA Draft. The matter of which team would be lucky enough to have his rights was settled last month when the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Draft lottery.
Wembanyama is a big man who can shoot like a scoring guard. He is in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The NBA will now have a “Greek freak” and a “French freak.” Like Giannis, he speaks English very well and is a very thoughtful person based on the interactions I witnessed.
Wembanyama’s teammate from the suburban Paris Metropolitans 92, Bilal Coulibaly, was drafted seventh by the Indiana Pacers but was quickly traded to the Washington Wizards.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) June 23, 2023
I informed him Japanese professional baseball players can sign with any American team they like, and asked if he would have liked to have had the same privilege. “Of course, but this is still a great process,” he replied. It is only fitting that Coulibaly will be working in Washington because he has diplomatic skills.
20-year-old twins Amen and Ausar Thompson were drafted with the fourth and fifth selections by the Houston Rockets and the Detroit Pistons, respectively. I asked Amen if he and his brother were getting joint endorsement offers because of the fact they are identical twins in the spirit of those classic Doublemint gum ads of yesteryear. He confirmed that is the case.
The Thompson twins got new hats 🔥 pic.twitter.com/FzotzZveWQ
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) June 23, 2023
Since he and his brother will certainly be referred to as the Thompson Twins by media and fans, I asked if he was aware of the popular ‘80s British pop music group of the same name. “Our mom loved their music. I heard they weren’t really twins,” he said with a smile. He is right about that.
As he was leaving the press conference podium, I asked Amen if he would visit the LBJ Space Center since that is where his NBA team derived its name. “I did not know that. I learned something tonight!” I should note he knew Texas does not have a state income tax.
University of Central Florida forward Taylor Hendricks, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, told me before the draft he was tired of heat and humidity. “I am looking forward to my first snowball fight!” he chuckled after learning he would be playing for the Utah Jazz.
He was also looking forward to attending the Sundance Film Festival which is held each January in nearby Park City.
Kansas forward Gradey Dick wore a garish red sequin blazer. “I am from Kansas, and I wanted to pay tribute to Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz,” he told the media. He was selected by the Toronto Raptors who had to have been impressed with his confidence.
I asked Gradey if he would donate his jacket to either the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame or the Smithsonian. “Nope. I am going to keep it!” he said with a laugh.
Dereck Lively II left Duke University after his freshman year but promised he would return to get his degree. “My mom insists on it, and there is no way I am going to disappoint her.”
Lively admitted he was hoping to be drafted by a team in a large market for the increased endorsement opportunities. I have a feeling he might have been tempted to return to Duke in the fall when he was selected as the 10th pick in the draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He must have been relieved when they traded him to the Dallas Mavericks.
UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. was an anomaly as he was the only first-round pick to graduate from college. The Miami Heat selected him with the 18th pick. Jaquez said his bachelor’s degree is in history and is considering going to law school after his playing career.
Mets trade Eduardo Escobar to Angels for two pitching prospects
The Mets did a favor for Eduardo Escobar when they traded him Friday to the Los Angeles Angels for a pair of minor league pitchers, Coleman Crow, and Landon Marceaux. The Angels needed a third baseman, and Escobar was languishing on the bench. The Mets will pick up his salary for the remainder of the season.
The two pitchers the Mets received in exchange for Escobar are allegedly the 19th and 20th best pitchers in the Angels farm system. I translate that to mean you should not expect them to ever appear in a big-league game.
Monumental June for Former Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
This has been a big month for former Rangers goaltender, and current MSG Sports air personality, Henrik Lundqvist. The documentary on his life, “Open Heart,” debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. Last week Lundqvist learned he will be part of the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2023.
Rob Parker named to National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame Class of 2023
Congratulations to former Newsday sportswriter, current Fox Sports air personality, and Martin Van Buren High School alum Rob Parker on being named to the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame Class of 2023.
Philly Mascots hold ceremony to reopen I-95
An indicator of how important professional sports are to the city of Philadelphia was the appearance of Philly team mascots, led by the Phillie Phanatic, on a fire engine at last Friday’s ceremony to mark the reopening of I-95.
Excellent job by Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro, and Philadelphia construction workers to get the road reopened two weeks after a part of it collapsed following a truck explosion.
You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.
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