NEW YORK — The suit was the real star of the show on Thursday night at Barclays Center — a black-and-white floral-patterned tuxedo top, with a gold medallion clipped on the left lapel that matched the gold and wine colors of the Cleveland Cavaliers hat he placed upon his head. That Andrew Wiggins was the kid in the audacious outfit was fitting. The first No. 1 overall pick to shake hands with new Commissioner Adam Silver needed to have a legendary look.
“Just wanted to do something really different to stand out and try to win on both points, stylish points and become No. 1,” a smiling Wiggins said after weeks of suspense, a full college basketball season of debate and an entire NBA season of teams intentionally being bad to possibly get him finally came to an end.
The eclectic garb required a certain amount of confidence and flare, something that the electric Wiggins was dripping in, right along with an undeniable talent that made him impossible for the Cavaliers to pass on.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wiggins said. “I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid. My dream was to just make the NBA. Now going to high school and college, the opportunity and possibility of going No. 1 came into talk and now I accomplished that. So it’s just a crazy feeling right now. I don’t really know to feel. It doesn’t feel real right now.”
Wiggins became the second straight player from Canada to go first overall in the NBA draft, joining his friend Anthony Bennett. The Cavaliers made a surprising selection with Bennett last season, but Wiggins has been projected to go first — and no worse than second — in this draft for nearly two years.
Bennett predicted that it would happen on the night that he was selected last season. And in his lone season at Kansas, the 19-year-old Wiggins had NBA scouts and executives swooning with his ridiculous bounce off the floor and a stride that would make a gazelle envious. Those qualities helped the 6-foot-8 Wiggins move ahead of Duke’s Jabari Parker, who got his wish by going second overall to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Parker sobbed uncontrollably after he landed in a city that is a short drive from his hometown of Chicago, where he starred at Simeon, the same high school that produced a No. 1 pick in 2008, Derrick Rose. Eyes still watery as he met with reporters, Parker expressed his gratitude to the Bucks and a desire to never leave.
“It’s just been real humbling to get anybody who just wants you. I’m so glad and so grateful,” said Parker, a 6-9 forward. “I’m trying to be a throwback player and only stick with one team. This might bite me in the butt years from now, but right now, I want to stick with whoever’s rolling with me.”
Wiggins and Parker became the first sons of NBA players to be drafted first and second in the NBA. Wiggins’s father, Mitchell, was the 23rd pick of the 1983 NBA draft and played parts of six seasons for Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia, while Parker’s father, Sonny, played six seasons with the Golden State Warriors.
Parker crossed paths with Wiggins after both were drafted, and they embraced. Afterward, the two players who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated before they ever stepped foot in college denied there was or will ever be any rivalry between them.
“Great players will always be compared to each other,” Wiggins said. “On the court, doesn’t matter who I’m going against, I’m going to go hard. I’m going to go to win and kill. Off the court, it’s a different story.”
Wiggins’s college teammate Joel Embiid, a 7-foot center from Cameroon, was considered the top prospect in the draft but suffered a stress fracture in his right foot a week before the draft. Since Embiid will miss at least four months recovering from his foot surgery and was unable to finish his lone season at Kansas because of a stress fracture in his lower back, some league executives expected that he would make a considerable slide in the draft.
The Cavaliers considered taking him before the injury, but Embiid didn’t drop very far as the Philadelphia 76ers selected him third overall.
Philadelphia was one team that could have taken a chance on Embiid. The 76ers are in the early stages of a rebuilding effort, and they took an injured Nerlens Noel sixth overall last year and held him out for an entire year as he recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Wiggins and Embiid became the 14th duo from one school to go in the top five, and just the third to be among the top three.
Orlando took Arizona forward Aaron Gordon fourth and with the fifth pick, Utah selected Dante Exum, a 6-6 point guard from Australia. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart went sixth to Boston, Kentucky forward Julius Randle went seventh to the Los Angeles Lakers, Michigan guard Nick Stauskas went eighth to Sacramento and Charlotte took Indiana forward Noah Vonleh ninth.
Wiggins was chosen first by Cleveland 11 years to the day that LeBron James wore an all-white suit when he went No. 1 to the Cavaliers. James became a free agent this week when he opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat, and Wiggins was asked to make a recruiting pitch to possibly bring him back. Wiggins smiled and said, “I want to win. If he wants to win, we’ll be good together.”
In the most moving moment of the night, Silver made special recognition of Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who found out on Sunday that he could no longer play competitive basketball after he was discovered to have Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition that weakens the body’s connective tissue. Silver stated, “The NBA selects Isaiah Austin.” Austin put on a red, white and blue NBA cap, hugged family members and walked across the stage to great Silver.
“It was one of the greatest moments in my life, something I’ll never forget,” Austin said afterward of Silver’s gesture. “God has truly blessed me because He could have continued to let me play basketball but instead He saved my life.”
The draft didn’t include any blockbuster deals involving established veterans, but there were a few deals nonetheless. The Denver Nuggets sent Anthony Randolph and the draft rights to Creighton forward Doug McDermott (11th pick) to Chicago in exchange for Croatian center Jusuf Nurkic (16) and Michigan State guard Gary Harris (19), and Orlando sent Dario Saric (12), a future first-round pick and a future second-round pick to Philadelphia for Elfrid Payton (10). Charlotte also sent the draft rights for Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier (24) to Miami for P.J. Hairston (26), the 55th pick and a future second-round pick.