In the 2003 NBA draft lottery, the Cleveland Cavaliers were favored to secure the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. So when it came time to name the winner of the lottery, it was no surprise when the Cavs had their name called. As owner Gordon Gund was congratulated on the lottery outcome, and asked about projected first pick LeBron James, he said with a laugh, "We don't know who we are going to pick yet." Later he held up a Cavaliers' jersey with the name "James" on the back, along with the number 23.
"It's no secret that we intend to select LeBron James with the first pick," said Cavs general manager Jim Paxson afterwards.
James was born and raised in Ohio, making him even more of an attractive pick, and when it came time to draft him, the Cavaliers did so, with the hopes that he would lead their franchise to their first of many championships.
James made an impact for the Cavaliers instantly, and would win the Rookie of the Year award in 2004. In the years followed, he made the Cavaliers a force in the Eastern Conference. While doing so, James won one scoring title and two Most Valuable Player awards with Cleveland. He also led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007.
In the summer of 2010, James chose to leave Cleveland to head to Miami to join forces with two fellow members of his draft class in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Since then, James has won two more Most Valuable Player awards and two NBA championships.
Had the Cavaliers known that LeBron would leave his home state in 2010, would they still have drafted him back in 2003? Probably. The success James brought to the Cavaliers would have been hard to get by drafting any other player.
Knicks win the first lottery, but amidst conspiracy theories
The first-ever NBA draft lottery was held in 1985, when Commissioner David Stern decided to toss seven envelopes into a clear drum, where they would be mixed up. Each envelope would have a logo of one of the seven worst teams in the NBA. Once they were mixed, Stern reached inside the drum, grabbed an envelope, and read the name of the team that would have the top pick. It was the New York Knicks.
The Knicks eventually drafted Patrick Ewing, who went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and became an 11-time All-Star.
But that wasn't the end of the discussion as far as the ’85 lottery goes. Many felt it was a bit convenient for the NBA to have the biggest draft star head to the biggest market in the league. Combine that with the conspiracy theory that David Stern chose the one envelope that had a crease in the corner, and there is chaos. Such accusations have been discussed over the years, as well as been re-ignited by ESPN columnist Bill Simmons.
In the end, we'll never know whether it was a rigged lottery or not, but it sure makes for a memorable moment in the NBA's history.
Let the game begin
It's called a lottery for a reason, and it is because any team that has a ping-pong ball has a chance. Over the years, we have seen teams with the highest odds win the lottery, as well as some of the teams with the lowest odds. So while the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic have the best chances at getting the top pick, 2014 might just be another year where a team like the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers overcome the percentages and change their franchise's future.
You can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at @MitchKunzler.
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