The NBA Draft is always a fateful and exciting day, with any number of storylines to follow: which basement-dwelling team, desperate for success and legitimacy, will end up with the next generation-defining superstar? Which future Finals MVP will San Antonio steal with their mid-20s pick? Which immense talents will the Toronto Raptors overlook in favour of some dude from Tajikistan that nobody has ever heard of? Will Hinkie satisfy his draft pick addiction, trading the #2 slot for 30+ conditional future second round picks?
But for now, we must put aside those questions, which surely will be answered come sundown. For now, we must turn our gaze from the bright, hopeful futures of 50+ basketball prospects and towards an altogether darker, sadder career arc. For amidst stories of hope and triumph and skill, we must not forget one storyline that is devoid of hope, of happiness, or of joy.
I speak, of course, of this tragic reality: for one very good basketball player, today is their last day of not playing for the New York Knicks.
We don’t yet know who this extraordinarily unlucky player will be. It could be Jahlil Okafor; it could be D’Angelo Russell; it could be Kristaps Porzingis; it could be Karl Antho-, actually no, it almost certainly will not be Towns. Hell, it could be whatever unlucky top-40 2-guard or PF the Knicks decide to give up the 4th pick for. By the time the agonizingly long process of the NBA draft grinds to a finish tonight, we will know who it is.
But for now, we know this: whoever this person is, they shall suffer. The next three years will see their love of basketball extinguished, as they play for an incompetent owner in a tactical system that nobody currently playing basketball understands. They will play a system made famous by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaq; they will play it with Ricky Ledo, Alex Shved, and Tim Hardaway Jr. Any criticism they make of this system, so spectacularly unsuited to the gang of washed up, overpaid former stars that the Knicks currently employ, will be met with howls of derision and devotees of the Cult of Phil shouting “TRIANGLE!” repeatedly on Twitter. They will play under a coach who isn’t really a coach, but rather a stand-in substitute teacher for Phil Jackson. They will play in Manhattan, a city where the infinite possibilities of distraction are matched only by the bottomless resentment, rage, and general contempt of their sports fans towards a lack of success.
Whoever this player is, their feelings of intense loneliness, isolation, and misery in the New York Sadness Factory will only be magnified by what they had hitherto avoided. Even to get to the Knicks, they’ve dodged so much: they avoided having to live in Minneapolis; even if Minnesota could one day be a great team, it’s a depressing place to live. They avoided being drafted by the Lakers, where they will surely become Kobe’s latest bloodbag as he sits in his hyperbaric chamber, slowly draining the life force away from yet another of LA’s second round picks (if Jordan Clarkson is looking thinner and less healthy by the day, suspicion should immediately fall on Kobe). They avoided becoming involved in the Mad Science Experiment Formerly Known as the Philadelphia 76ers. They have survived so much, and three years of playing for the Knicks is their Faustian reward.
We always remember the picks who go on to achieve greatness – the Shaqs, the Lebrons, and Anthony Davis’s. We never remember those who suffer in silence, who slowly have all vestiges of joy sapped from their souls as they struggle on a team that accidentally tanked harder than teams that deliberately tanked. But we at Armchair shall carry the torch and hold this unlucky player dear in our hearts.
To whoever is drafted with the 4th pick by the New York Knicks: we shall remember you.