By Jason Jordan
Special to Page 3
I've covered the NCAA Tournament, interviewed Lebron James, and shot the breeze with Dick Vitale in a very small restroom (I can explain), but of all of the events I've covered in my young, journalistic career, the 2004 NBA Draft was definitely the highlight, thus far.
My NBA Draft experience began at Wednesday's media day event in the ballroom of New York City's Westin hotel. Perhaps the best way to describe the ambiance and atmosphere is by telling you that for me, it was a mind-over-matter experience -- in my mind, the only thing that mattered was that I was there.
One by one, the players filtered into the ballroom. First Emeka Okafor, then Devin Harris, then Andre Igoudala (you get the idea), which was very cool and somewhat intimidating. And while most players scurried around and enjoyed the media frenzy, high school phenom Josh Smith had the whole "fashionably late" tactic down cold. He arrived a good 20 minutes late but, hey, it was his moment to shine, let him live it up.
At first, the interview access was overwhelming. I mean, there I was standing side-by-side with ESPN.com's Andy Katz and David Aldridge vying for the best possible quote from Luol Deng. I was a bit taken aback, to say the least. But then I put my (few) experienced years of attending post-game press conferences to the test and realized I had learned a thing or two about being respectably aggressive.
Between interviews, my subconscious mind spent a lot of time giving out various fictitious "awards" to different players. For instance, the "Most Sweated" award, given to the player who drew the biggest media crowd, went to Emeka Okafor. The "Ludacris Jewelry" award, given to the player that most exemplified the lyrics, "Watch out for the medallion, my diamonds are reckless, it feels like a midget is hanging from my necklace," went to ... Luol Deng for his custom made watch from "Jacob the Jeweler."
Two words -- bling, bling!
Professionally speaking, the coolest part of media day was when I asked Josh Smith what I believed to be a thought-provoking question: "Josh, with a record number of high schoolers entering the Draft this year and with the number of underclassmen growing every year, do you think it would be a safe assumption to say that the new direction of the NBA is to go with potential rather than experience?"
Well, Josh gave his agent the "big eyes" and danced around the answer better than the King of Pop himself. Hey, those college media relations guys would have come in handy at that point, huh, Joshy?
Anyway, when the press stepped away from the interview table, a radio show host approached me to tell me he liked my question and asked if he could put it on his radio show. Naturally, I obliged.
On Thursday, the NBA Draft was a legit, good time. It wasn't nearly as hectic as media day, which was somewhat disappointing because I actually I favor the chaotic grind.
At one point during the day, Dallas Mavericks 7-foot-6 center Shawn Bradley trotted down the carpeted steps of the Madison Square Garden theater, and was greeted with a thunderous chant of "Bradley sucks," from the crowd.
Initially, I thought 'how embarrassing,' but upon further review I figured the cunning quotations were all too familiar and probably didn't phase Big Shawn at all.
To stay sharp during quieter moments, I kept a running total of clichés throughout the evening. "Thank you, Lord," used 38 times (yes, finger pointing to the heavens counts) and "Tremendous upside," used 23 times, topped the list.
Overall, few shocking picks, some won and lost pinky bets, and a more-than-fair share sighs of contentment made for a memorable evening.
I have officially reached the pinnacle of my career. So what now? Onward and upward ... With a start like this, I've got to believe I'm destined for greatness, right? And if that's me, an intern, on my "high-horse," then I'll just touch the clouds and ride off into the sunset.