Larry Bird has been a part of numerous NBA Drafts, analyzing hundreds of basketball prospects only to draft a handful of them. In the NBA, getting drafted and sustaining an extended career in professional basketball are two very different things. Three men have worked together for the better part of three years to try and make the latter a reality for two of those men. Or should I say, boys that have become men.
I’m speaking of Paul George and Lance Stephenson, Larry Legend’s two draft picks in 2010 that have developed into the core of the present and future of the Indiana Pacers.
So where do I begin?
George was the draft’s 10th overall pick out of Fresno State in southern California. The lanky, athletic wing had an enormous upside as a 6-foot-9 guard/forward. Talk about living up to your potential.
Long story short, 23-year-old George has blossomed in a hurry from the no-name top-10 pick into a 2014 NBA All-Star starter. His accolades continue to stack up, from the NBA’s Most Improved Player to Eastern Conference Player of the Month, All-Star and a Team USA selection – all in the past year-and-a-half.
George has even been brought up in the discussion for a Most Valuable Player award. I could go on and on about PG, but the reality is, there could still be so much more to come from him.
Same can be said for Stephenson, whose story might be even more remarkable.
Stephenson grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He was so good that he did everything for his high school basketball team en route to becoming New York’s all-time high school scoring leader.
Lance went on to play one year of college ball – all that is required from the NBA – as a Cincinnati Bearcat before declaring for the NBA Draft. His immature reputation put a big question mark on his shoulders for NBA executives.
That reputation wasn’t enough to stop Bird from taking a chance on him in the second round with the 40th overall pick. It took Stephenson almost three years to understand life in the NBA, mature on and off the court and just play basketball.
As difficult as that may have been for Stephenson, Indiana Pacers fans are witnessing what Bird originally saw in the New York native.
“(Lance) is the most talented player on this team,” Bird said a couple years back.
It’s that talent which is finally on display this season. Stephenson leads the league in triple-doubles and has the ability to score at any point in any situation against anyone in the NBA. He is incredibly versatile and a more-than-willing passer, one of his unique talents.
How soothing it is for fans of thenIndiana Pacers (and Bird, among others) thinking back on the 2010 NBA Draft. Probably wasn’t Larry Bird’s best day at the office in terms of criticism, but that day could put a Larry O’Brien Trophy in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy.