Skip to main content

Most slept on story from the '03 Draft — LeBron in Memphis

LeBron-James-Jerry-West

The Grizzlies finished the '02/'03 season with a 28-54 record. The worse part about that was the fact it was their best season in franchise history. At the end of the season, it was a good news-bad news situation for Memphis fans.

The good news was Jerry West became their GM. Getting The Logo to run your front office basically guarantees a competitive team. One of the best talent evaluators in NBA history leading a rebuilding (well, building) effort is a good thing. The bad news was the Grizzlies fans had to wait a year for West to get a high draft pick despite their 28-54 season. Let's take a look at the lottery odds from 2003.

  • Cleveland Cavaliers - 22.5%
  • Denver Nuggets - 22.5%
  • Toronto Raptors - 15.7%
  • Miami Heat - 12 %
  • Los Angeles Clippers - 8.9%
  • Memphis Grizzlies - 6.4%

Unfortunately for Grizzlies, they traded their 1st round pick in the 2003 draft to Detroit in 1997 for a 35-year-old Otis Thorpe (who would end up playing only 47 games for them). The pick was no.1 protected, and nobody was holding their breath for a 6.4% chance. It turned out to be one of the most dramatic TV nights in Memphis history.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

The drama started when NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik read the 6th pick goes to Los Angeles. The Clippers had the 5th best odds, meaning someone jumped up in the Draft. Miami and Toronto turned out to be at 5 and 4 - Jerry West was starting to get his hopes up. When the no.3 envelope said "Denver Nuggets," everyone held their breath. Will Cleveland get the kid from Akron, or will Memphis miraculously keep their pick and turn the franchise over?

Ouch. We got to see heartbreak on live tv - from LeBron James to losing the pick in a second. Detroit got the no.2 pick and fell in love with Darko Miličić. The rest is history. Jerry West went on to build a perennial contender in a small market in the Western Conference (and gifting Pau Gasol to the Lakers), but it could've been so much better.

West is a fantastic basketball mind, but even he needs a Kobe or Magic for a championship-level team. As good as you are, you have to get lucky. The thing is, intelligent teams put themselves in the position to get lucky. (and the Cavs get three first-round picks in four years).

Players from the '03 Draft would go on to define NBA basketball for the next 15 years. It's often slept on how close we were to Memphis being one of the most important chapters in that story. All this for 47 games of Otis Thorpe. At least GM's understand the value of Draft pick protections these days; well, most of them.

bill-russell-shaq-min

Bill Russell once explained how he would defend Shaq: "He has to carry that weight up and down!"

A duel between the most dominant big man ever and the best defensive player in history would be a true showdown.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

Most epic on-court trash talk moments caught on camera

Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James all dropped epic lines to hush their foes.

Houston Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks

One-hit wonder — whatever happened to Houston Rockets’ Aaron Brooks?

Aaron Brooks played like an All-Star player in 2009-2010 season. However, his performances dipped due to injuries and alleged attitude problems.

Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller, Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, Scottie Pippen forward Chicago Bulls

Reggie Miller on why Scottie Pippen was the X-Factor in the Bulls' NBA Finals wins against the Jazz

Scottie Pippen has literally contained the best point guards in NBA history.

San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan, center David Robinson and center Kevin Willis

”We might not want to grab him” - Kevin Willis says Tim Duncan and David Robinson hesitated to throw him into a pool when he first arrived in San Antonio

Former San Antonio Spurs center Kevin Willis recalled his hilarious and epic first meeting with Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

“There are many days I don't want to be around people and I'm a nasty person” — Michael Jordan opens up about why he doesn’t like showing himself to the public

Throughout his playing days, Michael Jordan hinted why he prefers to stay away from the public spotlight, and true enough, he carries that persona in retirement.

ben-simmons-russell-westbrook-min

Ben Simmons gets heated after a fan roasts him to his face: "Hey Russell Westbrook! Can't shoot bro?"

The comedian known for clowning NBA players went up to Simmons at the mall, but the Nets star was not having it.