NBA Draft 2012: Here’s Why You Should Care

The 2012 NBA Draft is over. Knicks fans have stopped booing Kostas Papanikolau (I think) and security has finally finished escorting the handful who came to the Prudential Center in protest of their teams’ removal to Brooklyn. (Though if they were anything like their Nets, I doubt they put up much of an effort.)

So now the big question.

No, not which teams drafted well and which teams didn’t. If you want some insight into that crapshoot, you can look here (if you have some extra money). Or here or here or here or here (if you don’t). Open your wallet. Take your pick.

No, I’m talking about the BIG question. You know, which picks you should care about. Like, spend-the-money-you-had-saved-for-your-daughter’s-college-tuition-to-purchase-tickets-to-see, care about. Like, spend-the-two-and-a-half-hours-you-had-saved-for-the-latest-Marvel-comic-movie-adaptation-to-see, care about. Like, take-out-your-handkerchief-and-cry, care about. Well, maybe not the last one but, you get the point.

Here are the three best stories I’ve come across, the ones I’ll be most interested in following next season, the ones which have made me teary exult in the great unpredictability of life.

#3) Anthony Davis selected numero uno (number one, for you non-bilingual folks) by the New Orleans Hornets. 

Initially overlooked in high-school by scouts who doubted his 6 foot 2 inch frame could play to the needs of an NBA shooting guard, Robinson grew nine, yes nine, inches by the time he was a senior. Maintaining his shooting touch, the once miniscule Robinson (by NBA standards) sprouted not only into a shot-blocking machine but the top high-school prospect in the country. To put it another way: he went from being scouted by Cleveland State University (?) to the University of Kentucky. He went from calling sports-talk radio to chat about John Calipari to being coached by him, from dreaming of being the NBA’s number one draft pick to being it. Can anyone say: jealous?

#2) Bernard James, United States Air Force vet, selected in second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

At age 27, most professional athletes are reaching the peaks of their careers. Bernard James is just starting his. After serving six years in the Air Force (2003-2008), with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar, James was selected 33rd overall this past Thursday by the Cavs before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks. A talented defensive player, the 6’10’’ 230 lb. Florida State center will hopefully adapt well to the NBA game. And even if he doesn’t, here’s one NBA fan who will be cheering his number. (Except when he’s playing my Knicks).

#1) Thomas Robinson, chosen fifth overall by the Sacramento Kings.

As stories go, it’s hard to find one much more bittersweet than Thomas Robinson’s. Robinson grew up fatherless in a poor, crime-infested section of Washington D.C. with his mother and sister. After his mother managed to move the family out of the neighborhood, Robinson attended Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Things seemed to be on the up and up. After averaging 16 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks his senior year, Robinson was a consensus top 30-40 player in the nation. He enrolled at Kansas in 2009. After coming off the bench his first two seasons, Robinson finally got the opportunity to start this year, and was absolutely terrific, averaging nearly 18 points and 12 rebounds a game. For his efforts, he was named ESPN.Com National Player of the Year, Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year, and AP First Team All-American, among numerous other awards.

Perfect story, right?

Not quite.

In a three week period this past season, Robinson endured the deaths of both of his maternal grandparents and his mother. That left Robinson to take care of himself and his eight year-old sister, all while committed to a top-rate NCAA basketball program, as their star player.

When the Kings selected 6’9’’ 237 lb Robinson to team up with rising star Demarcus Cousins with the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, they chose a firebrand, a warrior. I would be surprised if he didn’t succeed in the NBA. But whether he does or not is almost immaterial. As an emblem of human courage, of the power of hope and determination, Thomas Robinson is already a role model. I know I’ll be keeping an eye on him this season. And so should you.

If there are any other great stories from this year’s draft you’d like to share, you can post them in the comments below.

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