Last Thusday night, I sat in my chair on the ground floor of Barclays Center, covering the NBA Draft. On a personal rooting note, I didn’t have a huge interest in who my favorite team drafted. (Because it’s the Nets.)
I did, however, have sudden intrigue in the Denver Nuggets. Thing is, I don’t really care about the Nuggets (sorry, Denver-ites). But I care about Tyler Lydon. Because I care about where my fellow Syracuse Orange get drafted and play.
Last year, I had a slight uptick in interest in the Sacramento Kings, who drafted Malachi Richardson, and the Detroit Pistons, who drafted Michael Gbinije.
These days, the NBA is a player-driven league. Sure, people root for the Cavs and Warriors. But they really root for LeBron and Steph.
So, like alums who went to UNC or Duke, UCLA or Kansas or Kentucky or Michigan State, I root for players with Orange in their blood. It’s a special connection one can only possess by sharing an alma mater.
If anything, it gives us a chance to root for actual people who may not disappoint us as much as our bottom-dwelling teams. And we don’t have to care about the record of the team we are watching. We just care about the player.
Cuse players generally get a bad rep in the NBA. People say they’re not successful. And while Carmelo Anthony is the only current NBA player with Cuse roots who the general fan would know, we are still churning out first-round picks year after year. At some point, pundits have to respect that. You’re getting people there. Not going to hit a home run every time.
Sixty players are drafted every year. Far fewer retire at that same rate. So, people are being replaced. It’s a cutthroat business. You have to perform. The fact that year after year, Cuse alums and fans have a chance to see our guys play in the league, well that’s something.
Every year we’re lucky enough to watch a new player on a new team. It only builds the Syracuse basketball brand. This year that guy was Lydon. Will he take the NBA/Syracuse mantle from Melo? Probably not.
But does he represent a chance to see some more Orange in the NBA? No doubt about that.