From LeBron to Zaza, the 2003 N.B.A. Draft Class Survivors Share a Bond

From LeBron to Zaza, the 2003 N.B.A. Draft Class Survivors Share a Bond

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Though Pachulia and Korver slipped to the second round, they have had high-level careers, and they share a unique bond with the other players from their class who continue to plug along — for now, if not forever.

“I have so much respect for those guys,” Pachulia said. “I’m not as close to what they’ve done with the numbers or the stats. But as far as love of the game, I’m sure I can still definitely compete. There’s a reason why I’m still here.”

Back when it all began, Wade heard James before he actually met him. It was the spring of 2003, and Wade was waiting to be examined by doctors in a small room at the N.B.A. pre-draft camp in Chicago. Everyone knew about James, who had been a high school phenom. But Wade, who was coming off two seasons at Marquette, was still curious about him.

“So I’m just in this room by myself, and in comes this loud kid with a bunch of people following him — and he’s loud,” Wade, 36, recalled in an interview. “So we eventually introduced ourselves, and then it was just me and him in there waiting, you know? Getting to know each other a little bit.”

Wade said he could sense an instant connection, though their conversation was cut short when James was summoned for his exam first, leaving Wade to wait even longer. It was an indication, perhaps, of James’s precocious grip on the league.

Pachulia, who had been playing in Turkey, arrived for the draft at Madison Square Garden in a new suit. He did not receive an invitation to sit in the “green room,” which is typically reserved for lottery picks, so he sat in the bleachers. But he was still expecting to go in the first round after his agent had advised against his entering the 2002 draft.

“Just wait another year,” Pachulia recalled his agent telling him. “It’ll be an easier draft in 2003.”

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