The first round of the 2012 NBA Draft was a surprisingly dramatic affair, with one NBA scout equating most all pre-draft analysis to "blowing smoke up each other's asses for weeks." But the best story, arguably, came near beginning of the second round when Florida State center Bernard James was selected 33th overall. How so? Well, he's a rarity in that he's 27 years old, downright ancient by traditional NBA Draft standards, but that's because he's already served three tours of duty overseas while in the United States Air Force. And now he's coming to the NBA.
Hoopsworld ran an exhaustive (and excellent) feature on James earlier today. Here's a snippet:
In Iraq, he guarded thousands of detainees at Camp Bucca. In Qater, he secured buildings and airplanes. In Afghanistan, he worked as military law enforcement. He once had a 40-millimeter round land 90 feet away from him, killing six detainees and wounding many more.
James describes his path to the NBA as "peculiar" and he knows he isn't your typical prospect. At 27 years old, James is literally a man among boys in this draft. He's by far the oldest player in the class and he'll become the oldest collegian selected in the past 20 years, surpassing Dikembe Mutumbo who turned 25 years old one day after being picked in 1991. James is extremely unique, but he feels that his unconventional route to the NBA is what separates him from the other prospects in this year's draft.
"I think there's a huge difference between me and other players, right down to my mindset and how I approach things every day," James told HOOPSWORLD. "A lot of these kids haven't seen a whole lot in their lives. For many of them, all they know is basketball. They've been playing since they were about eight years old and they don't realize what it's like in the real world, having a real job and working for $30,000 or $40,000 a year. I've definitely learned not to let a single day go to waste."
(Go read the rest of that Hoopsworld story when you have a sec.)
And now James will play not for Cleveland, the team which technically drafted him, but Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks, which acquired the pick via a trade earlier in the draft and directed the Cavs to select him. (Cuban, as you might suspect, is already high on the new guy.) Even if you're not a Mavericks fan, it'll be so easy to be a Bernard James fan this season.