clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 2019 NBA Draft class was the most genuine one yet

New, comments

The outpouring of emotion from so many players was refreshing to see.

NBA fans don’t often get to see players as anything more than near-7-foot giants tossing balls into nets. So much of the sport revolves around the wins, the losses, the fights, the drama, and everything else that makes the NBA so profitable — and, consequently, so dehumanizing.

But the 2019 NBA Draft stood out for its touching, pure moments.

Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and R.J. Barrett were the first three guys called to shake Adam Silver’s hand. They knew they were going to do so in that order days ago, even months ago in Williamson’s case.

That didn’t stop their incredibly warm reactions and moments of self-reflection, though, as each member of the trio shed tears side-by-side with a parent. It was a wonderful reminder of the work these mere 18-year-olds put into their craft and how surreal living in the moment can actually be.

First up, Zion Williamson

Walking down with a defined strut the size of a giant, Williamson and his all-white suit took center stage in front of ESPN reporter Maria Taylor. For his first interview, Williamson was joined by his mother, who used to coach him growing up.

And then, the moment hit. The moment he kept in his head for his entire life. Tears streamed down his face as he talked about his mother’s sacrifice.

“I mean I don’t know what to say,” Williamson said, choking up. “I didn’t think I’d be in this position. My mom sacrificed a lot for me. I wouldn’t be here without my mom. She did everything for me. I just want to thank her.

“She put her dreams aside for mine. She always looked out for family and friends before herself.”

Williamson’s speech set the tone for one of the most joyously tearful nights in sports draft history.

Morant, the Grizzlies No. 2 pick, took the stage next with his father, who he recently said was his “first hater.” The elder Morant, suited up in a fit made to outshine his son like a true hater, was shown clips of him training his son.

Morant, in tears, spoke to his father, too. “I just want to thank him for everything he’s done for me. He made me who I am today and I’m just thankful for it all.”

Next up: R.J. Barrett

Barrett was drafted to the Knicks, the team for whom his late grandfather always wanted him to play. It was the team Barrett wanted, too. On stage with his father, the younger Barrett could only rest his head on the elder’s shoulders as he sung praise to his hard work.

Though the parent-son moments stole the beginning of the show, the strength of friendships endured throughout

That began when Williamson was shown cheering “That’s my boy” as Barrett was selected. But the most memorable teammate bond occurred minutes later.

North Carolina guard Coby White, picked No. 7 by the Chicago Bulls, was giving a press conference when he was informed his teammate, Cam Johnson, had unexpectedly been picked four spots later by the Phoenix Suns at No. 11.

“He went what?” White said with his eyes jumping out of their sockets in a press conference. “Cam Johnson 11th. Wow. Wow. WOW, bro. That’s crazy.” Johnson was expected by some to drop down into the second round of the draft.

“If y’all know Cam, y’all know how hard Cam works. There’s a lot of people that doubt him, but that’s crazy, bro. That’s so crazy. I’m so happy for him right now. Y‘all don’t understand how happy I am for Cam … Wow, bro. I’m getting chills up here.

The 2019 draft didn’t have many high-stakes trades or a lot of external drama, but it’ll be appreciated for its genuine feelings. There were no tough-guy acts on this night. At the Barclays Center, everyone was each other’s biggest fan and it was refreshing to see.

This might be the league’s most wholesome draft class yet.