NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum got an important, if not glamorous, job Thursday night.
He worked the late shift.
Shortly after 11 p.m., Tatum went to work and began announcing the names of second-round picks in the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. By then the crowd had dwindled, and all that remained of his audience were dozens of scattered fans and a well-dressed but weary family. Maybe there was a tumbleweed growing somewhere.
Commissioner Adam Silver received the Prime Villa at 8:00 p.m. and shook hands with the names of the most high-profile first-round prospects (top three picks), including Victor Wenbanyama, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson.
But Tatum was there for confident players who were beginning to feel disrespected and long shots still hoping to be given a chance. Some of the players Tatum called, like UCLA’s Amari Bailey, were in the stands with family and friends, but they were seated at long tables with black tablecloths and gold basketballs. He wasn’t known enough to be one of the 24 players invited to sit. on the arena floor. It looked like the most exclusive cafeteria mankind has ever known.
Tatum’s 31st overall pick to the Charlotte Hornets was first announced by Nigerian center James Nagy, who ran over and shook his hand. Art Nevins, 34, from Brooklyn, was still coming to see it.
New Orleans Pelicans fan Nevins was there with his friend John Traub, 33. Sitting in the stands, Nevins said he’s holding out until the second round to see if the Pelicans can trade Henderson to the Portland Trail Blazers. He was selected with the 3rd pick.
“I am fully awake,” said Nevins. “I’m ready.”
Since he purchased the ticket with a specific credit card, it was helpful to receive a coupon for two free drinks.
Bailey, a point guard who spent one season at UCLA, was drafted 41st overall by Charlotte. He came down from the stands in a stylish white suit that looked like it was studded with pearls.
Tatum said through a spokesperson that he looks forward to the announcement of the second-round pick each year.
“Round 2 is when the hardcore basketball fans at Barclays Center make the most noise,” he said.
And they did. From the other side of the empty arena, one could even hear the cheers of one.
A few rows behind Nevins sat Christian Cabrera, a 22-year-old San Antonio Spurs fan who had traveled from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to watch Wenbanyama be picked as the No. 1 pick. He wasn’t ready to leave.
“You can’t be tired on a night like this,” Cabrera said. He added: I have already paid for the trip here. I was able to see Wenby up close. I’m so happy he got to appear on ESPN. ”
By staying there, you always have the chance to see history.
In 2014, when Nikola Jokic was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in the second round, Nikola Jokic was sleeping in Serbia and a Taco Bell commercial was playing when Tatum announced his name. It seemed that only the people inside the building heard the voice. It’s the beginning of a future champion and two-time Most Valuable Player award-winning NBA career.
Depersia McGruder, who attended the draft with her 11-year-old son Grant, said she attended Harvard Business School with Tatum. Her love for his night shift, she said, was genuine.
“It’s still the NBA Draft,” said McGruder, a Ford Foundation executive. “It doesn’t matter. I mean, there are still people here. This is one of the biggest nights in basketball. Hoops’ dreams are coming true.”
One player sobbed in Tatum’s arms after his name was called.
Tatum had another made-for-TV winning moment for those who were still awake and watching.
19-year-old French guard Rayanne Rupert was drafted No. 43 by the Portland Trail Blazers. Rupert was the last of the 24 invited players still on the main floor table. As Tatum announced his name, Rupert hugged his family and friends with tears in his eyes and received a huge standing ovation from the rest of the crowd.
With the exception of players like Jokic, Draymond Green, Dennis Rodman and Manu Ginobili, most second-round picks have never made an All-Star game. But judging by the hugs, cheers and tears that flowed through late Thursday night, getting drafted no matter how late is still important.
The 58th and final pick of the draft went to the Milwaukee Bucks just after midnight.
They chose Kentucky forward Chris Livingston. He was in the stands and went down onto the stage.
Tatum ended the night with a handshake.