Sixty basketball players saw their dreams realized when they were chosen in the 2015 NBA Draft. They showed their excitement on stage and expressed it in their interviews. Read on for 16 memorable quotes from Draft Night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns was projected as the first overall pick for weeks, but the University of Kentucky big man did not find out until he heard his name called on Draft Night.
“When Mr. Adam Silver came out, I saw him and he said, ‘With the number one pick…’ I was racing,” Towns said. “I told Coach Cal before when he first came out that I was trying to drink the water and I was shaking uncontrollably. I told him, ‘Coach, don’t give me the ball right now for the last second shot. I wouldn’t make it.’”
2. D’Angelo Russell is unsure of how long he will be teammates with Kobe Bryant, so he wants to soak up as much as he can before Bryant retires.
“Kobe is a great dude,” Russell said. “Not knowing how much he has left in the tank is the scary thing — knowing how much he brings to the game and if he leaves, what we’ll lose. But I’m really looking forward to him taking me under his wing, if possible, and really just feeding me … the most knowledge he can and just letting me use that as fire against my opponents.”
3. Jahlil Okafor was once a projected first pick. However, he entered Draft Night unclear as to where he would be selected. The Philadelphia 76ers chose him third.
“As much as we tried to get an answer from Minnesota, as much as we tried to get an answer from the Lakers, nobody ever answered,” Okafor said. “I didn’t know what to expect. It was hard for me to go to sleep last night.”
4. DeMarcus Cousins trade talks dominated the rumor mill leading up to the Draft. They selected another big man, Willie Cauley-Stein, who doesn’t think the buzz will distract the team from trying to win.
“It doesn’t even really matter how stable they are or not,” Cauley-Stein said. “They’re going to end up coming together and putting pieces together to make a good team that can compete. Whether DeMarcus stays or he goes, they’re still going to do what they do and have a team that’s going to play to win.”
5. New York Knicks fans in attendance at Barclays Center booed when the team selected Kristaps Porzingis. The teenager from Latvia took the reaction in stride.
“A lot of fans weren’t happy that they drafted me, but I have to do everything that’s in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans,” Porzingis said. “There’s nothing I can do. I was happy about it. I want to be a part of this organization. I know the fans are a little harsh sometimes, but that’s how it is here in New York and I’m ready for it.”
6. Justise Winslow isn’t trying to recreate the success the Miami HEAT had with the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“For me, it’s not about filling anybody’s shoes, coming in and replacing anybody,” Winslow said. “Right now this is about me coming in, being myself, playing my game and not trying to be LeBron James. Let LeBron James be LeBron James. I’m going to be Justise Winslow. Dwyane Wade will be Dwyane Wade, and let the rest take care of itself. I’m not the ‘Big Three.’ We’re not the ‘Big Three.’ I’m Justise Winslow and I’m the newest member of the Miami HEAT.”
7. Cameron Payne is now teammates with one of the most stylish players in the NBA, Russell Westbrook. When asked who is the better dresser, Payne eventually ceded.
“He’s got to be, on different levels,” Payne said. “We’re just going to go half-and-half because sometimes I can be a bit spiffy, but sometimes he can [look] like, ‘Man, he’s fresh.’ I say about 50-50, but I’ve got to give it to him.”
8. Basketball players look up to Michael Jordan. Not all get to play for him. Frank Kaminsky is now in that small group.
“Growing up and (being) from Chicago, Michael Jordan is everything there,” Kaminsky said. “He still is. I had all of his posters on my wall, ‘Space Jam’ was my favorite movie. It’s just crazy to me that he thought highly enough of me to pick me with the ninth pick in the Draft, and I’m just so grateful for him and for the opportunity.”
9. Emmanuel Mudiay played a year in China before being drafted by the Denver Nuggets. He would like to return there one day to share the experience with his NBA teammates.
“If they want to go play in China, I would love to go back over there and play,” he said. “I’ve got a great fan base over there. Regardless if they go back or not, I’m going to go back myself just to show my appreciation and the love that they showed me.”
10. Kevon Looney sat at a table and watched every other player be drafted. It wasn’t until the final pick of the first round that the Golden State Warriors chose him at 30.
“It was just nerve-racking,” Looney said. “I got a little stiff and sore. I was sitting there a long time. It was a long wait.”
11. Myles Turner will look to make an impact on the Indiana Pacers. At one point, he thought it would be on the baseball field.
“I thought I was going to go pro in baseball, but your boy started growing too much and that strike zone got way too big,” Turner said. “Man, people can really throw that ball. It’s coming at 80, 90 miles per hour; it’s like, time to hang it up.”
12. Kelly Oubre’s confidence never wavered during the Draft process. Even though he didn’t go as high as he had hoped, his self esteem is still strong.
“My expectation was to go top 10,” Oubre said. “It doesn’t work out like that for everybody, but I still feel like I’m one of the best players in this draft. My confidence is through the roof, but I’m humble also. I know I have a lot to work and I’m ready to work on those things to help my team be the best that it can be.”
13. Stanley Johnson doesn’t plan on backing down to his opponents any time during his rookie year.
“In my opinion, we all lace our shoes up the same way, from LeBron (James) all the way down to the lowest guy in the league,” Johnson said. “I think I’m going to be ready to compete versus everybody. I’ve never been afraid of anybody, never been intimidated. That’s just how I was raised and how I was built.”
14. Bobby Portis will have to adjust to a lesser role as a rookie on the veteran-heavy Chicago Bulls. He views coming off the bench as just as important as starting.
“If you think about it, I feel like all role players are key players,” he said. “The role players are the guys that do all the blue‑collar stuff for the superstars to rise.”
15. After playing with Frank Kaminsky in college, Sam Dekker is already envisioning how much he will enjoy playing with his new teammates on the Houston Rockets.
“If I get in the paint, I can just throw it up in the air and Dwight (Howard) will go get it. Or if I pass it to James (Harden), I’ll get an assist automatically,” Dekker said. “You’re excited to play with the greats. Those are two guys, especially Dwight being more veteran, you watched growing up and you want to be in their shoes.”
16. The University of Kentucky dominated the lottery picks. They had four players selected in the first 13 picks, and six players drafted overall. Trey Lyles, selected 12th by the Utah Jazz, reflected on what their early first-round success meant to him.
“That doesn’t happen very often for one school,” he said. “It just shows that if you go to a team and you have a platoon like we did, but you care about the team and not just yourself, you’re going to be successful no matter what.”
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