The scene at the 2014 NBA draft was drastically different than in recent years when David Stern presided over the events.
Adam Silver made his draft debut as NBA commissioner Thursday. Not only was it a night of firsts for the league’s new commish, but a memorable and bittersweet evening thanks to one uniquely gracious act in the first round.
The Barclays Center crowd welcomed Silver with a huge round of applause at the start of the draft, reflecting a new level of respect for the newly minted commissioner and stark contrast from the years of jeers directed at Stern.
Even in the years when Silver served as deputy commissioner, he too received catcalls and boos announcing second-round picks on the heels of Stern. Last night, however, the heckling was replaced with applause – a reflection of fans’ support for Silver after his quick and decisive actions when dealing with disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
But rather than bask in the spotlight, Silver decided to pass it on. Midway through the first round, one pick truly stood out above the rest of the draft’s 60 selections – the one that won’t show
Last week, Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who was projected to go in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft, announced he had been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the heart and weakens the connective tissue in the body. The disease forced him to end his competitive basketball career and dashed his life-long dream of being drafted Thursday.
Austin may never play in the NBA – but Silver made sure he still realized at least a portion of his dream.
In an unprecedented and uniquely gracious moment, Silver called up Austin from the NBA draft green room, where he was sitting with his family, and deliver a heart-warming announcement.
“With the next pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the NBA selects Isaiah Austin from Baylor University,” Silver said.
It was an emotional moment for all in attendance. The fans gave Austin a standing ovation as he walked to the stage. It was a poignant moment that fans in attendance recognized as a gracious move from the new commissioner.
Although no game was played last night, the league certainly came out victorious in Silver’s debut running the show on draft night. But his best move of all came with the compassion he showed Austin – a moment of warmth from the commissioner we won’t soon forget.