The NBA Draft Dude explains the journey that led him to start covering the NBA Draft.
Why do you cover the NBA Draft?
That’s the question I often get from friends and acquaintances. It seems confusing to outsiders as the draft itself is a one night event where no actual basketball activity takes place.
What I love about the draft and why I enjoy covering it so vigorously, is because it’s a truly passionate subculture of hoops enthusiasts. The draft itself may culminate in a theatrical one night event, but the draft cycle is 365.
You’ve probably heard the old saying that basketball is jazz. An elegant game full of improvisation and synchronicity. The 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs are the perfect example of this concept.
If basketball itself is jazz, then the NBA Draft is punk rock. A hard hitting, adrenaline filled night that’s over before you can say Moses Moody.
Though I’ve only been covering the Draft for the last few years, I’ve been creating content in some capacity since around 2001 when I took a photoshop class in high school. For the better part of my twenties I designed for and toured with the band Patent Pending. We slept in Walmart parking lots, shady hotels, and eventually (at times) luxurious tour busses. The band went from playing in shitty basements to basically nobody but the bands and crew, to performing live before Justin Bieber on the Billboard Music Awards. We traveled all over the country and eventually outside of it.
The memories I have from those years on the road are irreplaceable, but the thing that made those years so worthwhile was the camaraderie and the community. The underground. Kids who surely knew and followed mainstream music, but were enthralled by the idea of a niche faction of like minded individuals who wanted to not only listen to what the masses told them to listen to, but they wanted to know who was up next. They knew there was more to the world of music than what the radio or MTV told them was out there.
I’ve found many of those similarities in the draft community, a fervent collective that obsesses about trying to figure out who’s up next.
It’s funny, because draftniks go to bat for prospects like kids go to bat for indie bands. We love being the one who gets to say “I told you so” or “I listened to them before they were cool”. Some of us even wear our favorite prospect’s name in our twitter profile like fans wearing band merch.
All the different types of draft content creators even remind me of all the different forms of punk that you’d come across in the scene. There’s the Schmitz and Givony’s that remind me of the mainstream punk bands that get a little radio play. These guys probably aren’t household names to the average hoop fan, but maybe they can recognize the face when they do their TV hits. You have groups like the Stepien writing your Pitchfork-esque intellectual, philosophical, long form pieces on a random prospect’s processing that reminds me of the super deep indie bands that you get into once you “mature” your music taste. There’s the OG’s like Chad Ford that did the mainstream thing but now do it on their own indie label. All the podcasts popping up are like band demos; mostly derivative with bad production but every once in a while you get one that slaps. YouTube big boards and mock drafts are the Draft’s music video equivalent.
Then there’s the player element that represents much of what touring musicians go through before they make it. These kids travel all over the country playing games in po-dunk gyms every weekend with little to no fanfare. That’s evolved a bit with the advent of the internet, as games at all levels become more accessible and prospects can build a following on social, but even so, most of these kids aren’t Mikey Williams or the Ball Bros. A huge band may seem like they blew up overnight, but there were years of grueling struggle before the sold out shows. They play shows in grimey basements and shitty bars, with the hopes of scrapping enough cash to pay for gas to make it to the next town.
Scouts are also on the tour grind. Driving from city to city, staying in seedy motels, heading to dimly lit gyms to watch a workout. Many are accustomed to the bright lights of the NBA or blue chip college arenas, but a lot of the gyms you’re going to see these kids play in are actually crummy gyms with bad PA sound systems (cough Carnesecca Arena cough). Sometimes you’ll go to a tournament to see a prospect or two and have to sit through some bad opening bands. Every once in a while though, you get a nice surprise, like last week when I went to see Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren in Brooklyn but walked away stoked on Tyrese Hunter from the Iowa States instead (shoutout to Simon Rath, he listened to Hunter before it was cool). That’s the type of shit that gets me amped on covering this stuff. Watching film is dope, but just like listening to music, sometimes you have to see the live show to really get it.
The NBA Draft community keeps growing every year and that’s the coolest part about covering it. Some people might see all these new accounts pop up on Draft Twitter and see it as someone trying to take their spot, but it’s the opposite. As the niche grows, everybody wins. Fuck the I told you so’s and the elitist shit. Let’s celebrate our L’s (word to SGA) and learn together. At No Ceilings, we want to continue to push this awesome subculture forward and continue to build a community of outcasts who want to listen to the band before they blow. We want to take this scrappy underdog of a sports niche and show the mainstream companies that we’re really out here doing this shit all year round in ways that haven’t been done before. We’re going to stretch draft coverage to its limits. Up the Draft Punx.