AP Was There: LeBron James tops star-studded 2003 NBA draft

NEW YORK (AP) — (2000 Package)

A star-studded draft takes place with 18-year-old phenom LeBron James picked No. 1. Carmelo Anthony is picked No. 3 followed by Chris Bosh at No. 4 and Dwyane Wade at No. 5. The Detroit Pistons infamously takes Darko Milicic as the No. 2 overall pick. James is the most heralded high school player of a generation . He is considered a can’t-miss prospect with the skills of a guard, the body of a forward and the potential of a superstar. Milicic is the first of a record 21 international picks. The Associated Press is republishing verbatim the story of the 2003 NBA draft on June 26, 2003.



AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK — LeBron James strode onstage wearing an all-white suit, appropriate garb for a player expected to be the savior of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James, the 18-year-old prep phenom from Akron, Ohio, was the No. 1 choice in the NBA draft Thursday night. He hugged his agent, Aaron Goodwin, then turned and did the same to his mother, Gloria, before pulling on a Cavaliers cap and shaking the hand of commissioner David Stern.

“I just think I look pretty good in all white,” said James, whose suit was custom-made by a Charlotte fashion designer. “My guy made it for me and said he’d make the best suit in the draft.”

The most heralded high school player of a generation, James is considered a can’t-miss prospect with the skills of a guard, the body of a forward and the potential of a superstar.

James turned to the audience and beamed a wide smile, although the raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden didn’t exactly embrace him. Many fans were already busy chanting “Fire Lay-den” — a reference to general manager Scott Layden of the hometown Knicks.

“I’m one of the highest publicized players in the country right now, and I haven’t even played one game of basketball in the NBA. I know I’m a marked man,” James said.

Serbian 7-footer Darko Milicic was chosen second by the Detroit Pistons, the first of a record 21 international picks.

Carmelo Anthony, who led Syracuse to the national championship, was chosen third by the Denver Nuggets — capping the drama-less first 15 minutes.

The Toronto Raptors, after listening to trade offers throughout the day, used the No. 4 pick on 6-foot-11 freshman forward Chris Bosh of Georgia Tech.

“Being picked so high is a definite honor. You always hope,” Bosh said. “I’m happy it’s over.”

Miami then went for Marquette junior guard Dwyane Wade.

The night’s first of seven trades came about 90 minutes after James was chosen, with Memphis sending the rights to the 13th pick, Marcus Banks of UNLV, and the 27th pick (Kendrick Perkins of Beaumont, Tex.) to the Boston Celtics for the rights to picks 16 (Troy Bell of Boston College) and 20 (Dahntay Jones of Duke).

“We got two players from an athletic standpoint who were at the top of the list of all the players in the draft,” Grizzlies president Jerry West said. “We are very excited about what we did.”

San Antonio later traded the 28th pick, Brazilian point guard Leandro Barbosa, to Phoenix for a future first-round pick. There were five deals involving second round picks.

Central Michigan center Chris Kaman, a 7-footer who averaged 22.4 points last season as a junior, went sixth to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Two teams with point guard problems snatched the two top-rated playmakers next.

Kirk Hinrich of Kansas was the first college senior to be selected, going seventh to Chicago. The Bulls will likely be without Jay Williams, the second overall pick of last year’s draft, for at least a year after he broke his leg in a motorcycle accident last weekend.

T.J. Ford of Texas, winner of the Naismith and Wooden awards, went at No. 8 to the Milwaukee Bucks — a possible sign that the franchise expects point guard Gary Payton to leave as a free agent over the summer.

“Sam Cassell is a great player I followed throughout my life. If they re-sign Gary Payton, then I’ll be learning from two of the best in the NBA,” Ford said.

The “Fire Lay-den” chants began anew before the Knicks selected Georgetown power forward Michael Sweetney — a choice that brought a mixed reaction from a partisan crowd that was on its feet as Stern announced the selection.

“They called my name and they cheered for me, and that made me feel real happy,” said Sweetney, who will be the fifth power forward on New York’s roster.

The crowd went nuts when the Knicks used the first pick of the second round on Polish center Maciej Lampe, who was considered a possible lottery pick in the days leading up to the draft.

Jarvis Hayes of Georgia went 10th to the Washington Wizards, who moved out of their Michael Jordan era by naming Eddie Jordan head coach last week and signing Jerry Stackhouse to a two-year contract extension earlier Thursday.

Mickael Pietrus, a 6-6 swingman from France, was the second of a record nine international players taken in the first round, going 11th to the Golden State Warriors.

Nick Collison of Kansas, the second-leading scorer in school history behind Danny Manning, went 12th to the Seattle SuperSonics — the only team with two of the top 14 picks.

After Memphis selected Banks, Seattle used its second pick on Oregon point guard Luke Ridnour, and Orlando tabbed Louisville’s Reece Gaines at No. 15 — the fifth point guard selection of the round.

College player of the year David West of Xavier went to the New Orleans Hornets at No. 18, possible insurance in case free agent P.J. Brown signs elsewhere this summer.

Serbian teammates Zarko Cabarkapa (17th, Phoenix) and Aleksandar Pavlovic (19th, Utah) from Buducnost broke the top 20, while a third player from that club — 7-foot-4 center Slavko Vranes waited for his name to be called. The Knicks eventually took him 39th.

Boris Diaw of France went at No. 21 to Atlanta, and Croatia’s Zoran Planinic went next to New Jersey. At No. 25, the Detroit Pistons took Argentina’s Carlos Delfino, who played last season for Kinder Bologna of Italy.

High school seniors went 26th (Ndudi Ebi of Houston to the Minnesota Timberwolves) and 27th (Perkins).

Notable second-round selections included Arizona’s Luke Walton, the son of Bill Walton, going 32nd to the Lakers, Greek teenager Sofoklis Schortsinitis going 34th to the Clippers and Washington taking Maryland guard Steve Blake 38th. China’s Xue Yuyang went to Dallas on behalf of Denver with the next-to-last pick.

Milwaukee dealt the 43rd pick, Kentucky’s Keith Bogans, to Orlando for cash. Toronto acquired Florida’s Matt Bonner, the No. 45 pick, from Chicago for a future second-round draft pick.

New Jersey traded the right to Creighton’s Kyle Korver, the 51st pick, to Philadelphia for cash. The Sixers also sent cash and the rights to No. 50 pick Paccelis Morlende to Seattle for No. 41 pick Willie Green of Detroit Mercy.


AP Corporate Archives contributed to this report.


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