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NBA draftees dressed for success
by Marc Narducci / June 29, 2005

The NBA draft has not only been a way to introduce the new talent into the league, but it has become a fashion statement of sorts. The players seem to be attempting to see who can wear the best duds to their big night. And each year the competition gets keener.

Prior to the 58th annual draft at New York's Madison Square Garden Theater, video and still cameras were shooting furiously at the players. With the way everybody was decked out, the NBA draft has taken on an Academy Awards type appearance.

The guys looked more suited for GQ than Sports Illustrated. And so did their spouses or dates.

Dark pinstripe suits seemed to be the popular fashion trend, especially among early first round picks. North Carolina forward Marvin Williams, the No. 2 overall pick by Atlanta, looked much taller than his listed height of
6-9 in a black pin-stripped three-piece suit. No. 3 choice Deron Williams and No. 4 Chris Paul were also in dark pin-striped suits.

Give Marvin Williams the slight edge in style points.

The prospective draftees all sit at tables in the front, with family, friends and agents.

A busy person was Roy Williams the North Carolina coach, who had four players taken in the first round. He sat at the table with the highest of the picks, Marvin Williams, the one player among the top Tar Heel draft choices that he actually recruited. The other Tar Heels were Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants.

All four Tar Heels were pulling for each other. Shortly before Marvin Williams was conducting his interview with the print media, Felton had just been drafted by the Bobcats.

"That's great, and I can't wait for Sean and Rashad to be drafted," Marvin Williams said.

With all the commotion around each player, it was interesting to see Channing Frye sitting by himself about 35 minutes before the draft, watching a big-screen TV of highlights from NBA TV.

He wasn't alone after earning the evening's biggest ovation following his selection at No. 8 by the hometown New York Knicks. Frye, whom many mock drafts predicted would go to the Knicks, was overwhelmed by his selection.

"There is really not a word to explain how happy I am right now," he said.

A favorite of the crowd came prior to the draft when the big-screen TV showed clips of former No. 1 draft choices. Back then, Shaquille O'Neal had plenty of hair and not as much girth and Allen Iverson was minus the cornrows and most of the tattoos. The players looked so young, maybe because they were. Shaq has been in the league 13 years and Iverson nine.

The crowd exploded in cheers when highlight of this year's players were shown just minutes before the draft began. Each player seemed to draw a bigger cheer. One of the biggest ovations came after a rim-rattling dunk by
Syracuse's Hakim Warrick.

All teams in the first round had five minutes to make their picks. Why the Milwaukee Bucks needed more than five seconds with the first overall pick was a valid question. The Bucks had been on the clock for five weeks
since earning the first pick in the lottery.

Milwaukee used half its time and with 2:30 on the clock, NBA commissioner David Stern announced the choice of Andrew Bogut.

And Bogut, who openly stated before the draft how much it would mean to him to be selected at the top, couldn't conceal his glee. He hugged everybody within his reach, including his parents, who are of Croatian descent.

Then after doing the obligatory television interviews, Bogut was whisked away to meet the print media. It was like traveling with a rock star. This seven-footer was wearing a suit and a Bucks hat and had scores of fans offering to shake his hand, take his picture and basically be near the top pick.

The NBA invited 16 players to be present at the draft. Those were players who were expected to be drafted highly and it appears the NBA did a good job. All 16 were selected in the first 19 picks.

That didn't make the final of the 16 so happy. Syracuse's Warrick was disappointed to be the last player in the green room.

"I'm relieved this is over," Warrick said.

There are diehard fans who stayed for the entire evening and kept their enthusiasm up. When Toronto selected Roko-Leni Ukic with the 41st pick, the crowd began chanting "Roko, Roko, Roko" even though the Croatian point guard wasn't in attendance.

Many players who weren't invited by the NBA, came on their own, dressed in suits and ties.

One of those players was power forward-center Ian Mahinmi of France, who was surprisingly taken in the first round as the 28th pick by the San Antonio Spurs. Nobody should pan the pick, based on the Spurs track record of drafting foreign players.

Mahinmi was mobbed by fans as he walked up to greet Stern.

There might have been 27 players taken ahead of Mahinmi, but few displayed his confidence. When asked if he was the steal of the draft, he didn't hesitate.

"Yes," he said. "I really think the Spurs are the kind of team that I can play well with."

Virtually every draftee talked about how excited they were to be joining their new team, even though more than a few of them won't be straying far from the bench as a rookie.

Still, this was draft night and worries about playing time can take place in the future. This was about celebrating their new status as NBA rookies, while dressing for the occasion like veterans.

Marc Narducci covers the NBA for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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