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Friday, June 29, 2007

The Draft...the final day

June 28, 2007 was my last 'official' day at the NBA. It was a really great day. A typical, hot summer NYC day. I was asked by NBA Entertainment to participate in a project to chronicle some of the history of the league. It called for a 1-2 hour sit down with one of the top NBAE producers, Craig. The day before, "Teif," as he is known about the NBAE halls, emailed a sarcastic email, something along the lines of..."ahh yes, Jordan, Bird, Magic, Shaq - who cares. I've been told I am doing the biggest inteview of my life tomorrow. High noon at the Westin."

We had a couple good laughs. I had a tough time on a few of the questions, especially the emotions I felt when I heard that Earvin "Magic" Johnson had the HIV/AIDS virus back in '91.

Teif later said that the interview actually fired him up to work at NBAE, as he heard about all of the stories and the passion we all felt as we began the process of creating NBAE from nothing. All of the stories of being in the 'trenches' with NBAE founder Barry Winik and the many producers and broadcast associates.

"It was my pleasure," wrote Teif in a powerful email he sent to me the next day. "Got some great stories, and, like I said, you fired me up to work here (NBAE) even more."

The afternoon turned to evening, and it was down to The Garden for my final night as an NBA employee. I knew it was going to be a busy night, as Yi Jianlian was in the house along with about 30+ media that had travelled to NYC from China to cover the NBA Draft.

Everything went quite well that night, although Yi's draft status with the Milwaukee Bucks remains an issue. One that I will follow closely, as his handlers try to manipulate the NBA Draft process to get Yi to a place where they think he can be 'marketed" well. The issue will be? Can he play?

Little do his marketers know, the frontline in Milwaukee might be a perfect place for Yi to cut his NBA teeth for a while, as he learns the ropes and the hard way of life in the league. We will see how it pans out.

After the 15 players on hand were led out from the green room to shake hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern and then be put through a literal gauntlet of ESPN, CNN, CBS, ABC,, NBAE, MSG Network, and a ton of other NBA interviews - the attention turned to the front rows of section 201-202-203 in the Felt Forum or "WaMu" Theatre as it is known in this, the day of the "naming rights to everything." That attention goes to a handful of kids, mostly international players, who are on hand and just praying to be drafted by an NBA team. many of them saw their dreams come true, including Giorgos Printezis, who was selected by San Antonio but later traded to the Toronto Raptors.

Well, as the second round came to a close, I made good on a thought that came to mind when I announced my departure from the NBA. I wanted to finish working, helping and doing some of the things that I did when I worked my 'first draft' in 1981. Those days, it was a 10-round marathon that began in the morning and went to about 6pm. We would take each round 'running' - the media/quick name for a list of what happened in that round, who was selected and by which team" - and distribute it to the working media on hand. The wire service guys lived and died by it, as the running was the key method to fact check their work to be sure all the names, schools and listings were accurate.

Well, I finished my NBA career by taking a list of the 2007 second round draftees, printing it and running from the 7th Avenue end of the Garden - where our press operation is located, to the 8th Avenue end where the Theatre and stage are situated and where St. John's grad and Naismith Hall of Fame media man Jim O'Connell, the AP college basketball editor, was putting the finishing touches on his copy. I gave "Oc" a big hug, as he knew the moment was coming and posed with him for a photo taken by another St. John's guy, longtime NBA Photos great, Nat.

It was all smiles and a perfect way to go out. I walked over to Tir Na Nog, an Irish bar across from the media entrance to MSG on 8th Avenue, near 33rd Street, and we toasted to a great run at the NBA.

A great night.

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