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Rookie Tales ... with Kyle Korver

Veteran Marksman Looks Back on His Freshman Campaign

Rookie Tales ... with Kyle Korver

Veteran Marksman Looks Back on His Freshman Campaign

When he watched his name flash across the bottom of the screen on ESPN’s scrolling ticker – the 51st pick of the 2003 Draft – there’s no way Kyle Korver could have known he’d go on to become one of the greatest long-distance shooters in NBA history.

But 16 seasons later, that’s exactly where Korver’s legacy stands.

The Lakewood, California native came into the 2018-19 season having canned 2,213 career three-pointers – good for 4th on the NBA’s all-time list, 2nd among active players. His .431 percentage from long-range is also 6th on the league’s all-time list, 2rd-best among active players. The league’s four-time three-point shooting champ has drilled over 100 triples 13 times in his career, including each of his last eight seasons.

If franchises had known then what we know now about Cleveland’s man with a very particular set of skills, he never would’ve lasted until the 51st pick – even in what’s widely-considered the greatest Draft in NBA history.

But that’s where he went – selected by the New Jersey Nets (and immediately traded to Philadelphia) after dominating the Missouri Valley Conference, winning MVC Player of the Year honors as a senior after leading Creighton to the NCAA Tournament in each of his four of his seasons in Omaha.

Korver landed with a Sixers team in turmoil. Future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson was just beginning to tangle with management and the media and there was a coaching change midway through that first season.

It wasn’t an easy freshman season for Kyle Korver. But he made it through – and then piled another 15 successful campaigns on top of it.

For, here’s his Rookie Tale

Do you consider the 2003 Draft class the best ever?

Kyle Korver: Do I consider the 2003 Draft class the best ever? Yes, absolutely!

What was Draft night like for you?

Korver: Draft night for me – I watched it in my dorm in college. And it started off with just me and a friend, because I knew I probably wasn't going to get picked right away. I thought it was going to be a little later. But, you know, you watch the whole thing. You never know what might happen, so you gotta watch.

And so, I'm watching and, as the night goes on, people are just showing up to my dorm room -- like more and more people. And I'm not getting picked. And so everyone is coming to my room expecting this, like, great moment -- and instead everyone's just getting quieter and quieter. Like: 'Is he gonna get picked?' 'Should we leave if he doesn't get picked?'

It was really awkward.

Then a news camera showed up in my dorm room and there's all these people there. And I got picked during the last commercial break. During the commercial break! They came back and I was like the bottom of the ticker: "Pick 51: Kyle Korver."

And obviously we all lost our minds in the moment and were cheering.

It actually said New Jersey, but I was actually traded to Philly right away. I didn't know that at the time, but it was pretty awesome. I mean, it's always a big moment, but when you go from thinking you might not get picked to getting drafted made it extra special. Everyone was cheering and going nuts right there in my dorm -- Kietwit Hall, Creighton University.

In terms of players, what was the composition of the Sixers when you got there?

Korver: When I got there, it was pretty much a veteran team.

Me and Willie Green were rookies together, we were both second round picks. And there were a couple other guys who were maybe three or four years in. Otherwise, there was a bunch of older guys -- and a bunch of them had made it to the Finals a couple years before. So it was that kind of locker room.

And so I was pretty intimidated in the beginning, you know. But a couple of guys really took me under their wing and kind of showed me the ropes and took care of me – brought me out to dinner on the road, talked to me about life in the NBA.

And when that happens to you, you think: 'Man, someday, if I'm a veteran I'm totally going to do for young guys.’ Because what they did for me was just the biggest deal.

I think the coach got fired like a month in. And it was a transitional year for the Sixers, we didn't win a lot of games.

We ended up only having nine healthy bodies. They called us "the City Line 9" because our practice was on City Line Avenue. I actually started a game at center or power forward. We had NO bodies, but I got a lot of playing time at the end of the year. And it ended up being a great experience.

You played in 72 games as a rookie did you ever hit the ‘rookie wall’?

Korver: I played in a lot of games, but a lot of the games that I played in -- especially in the beginning -- it was like, say, the end of the quarter and we had the ball. Coach would call timeout and put me in the right corner so that A.I. could have his right hand and try to get to the basket at the end the shot-clock and hit one of his little floaters.

So, it's like in a lot of those games I probably played a combined minute-and-a-half -- just end-of-the-quarter type stuff. But I got to appear in a lot of games and, by the end, I got to play lot of minutes.

My second year is when I played a lot. I think I broke my nose about two-thirds through the season and I hit a little wall that year. I was pretty out of it for, like, a month.

Did you have any thoughts back then that you’d be a three-point specialist?

Korver: Well, it's always been what I do best.

Like, a lot of people don't want to be labeled a certain thing anymore. They don't want to be a specialist. But they're just kind of OK at everything.

And I think one of the ways that you carve out a long career is to be great at something. You can't be bad in other areas; you still have to be able to play the team game. But, I mean, I've never been a high-flyer. I've never been a break-you-down, one-on-one guy.

I run around a lot. I shoot a lot of threes. And that's just kind of what I've done since I was really young.

"The NBA has come so far, though. We don't do a lot of hazing anymore, and for good reasons, even though most of it's harmless."

Cavaliers Guard Kyle Korver

What was the experience like, joining a team led by Allen Iverson?

Korver: A.I. was great for me. To this day, I can't even believe it. He was amazing to me.

The thing is, A.I. didn't want to pass you the ball unless he thought you were going to make it. He was like: 'Why would I pass you the ball if you're going to miss?' He would just rather shoot it himself, right?

We didn't have a lot of shooting on our team and he felt like I could give him some assists -- and so he was always looking for me. And he really encouraged me to shoot. He'd be like: 'Shooters shoot the ball! Shooters shoot the ball!

He would tell me that all the time. So, he helped me be aggressive.

There's a lot of talented guys that come to the NBA, but you kind of have to make it at some point. You've got to have like a moment or a year where you show everyone that you can play. And I wouldn't have had that early in my career, or maybe at all, if it wasn't for him -- just because he was just so there for me.

So, to this day, he's one of the most important people that I've had in my career, just because he helped me get going in the beginning.

Any particular A.I. stories you can share?

Korver: (laughs) Well, there's A.I. stories for days, for sure.

And everyone always talks about the "Practice!" interview -- and for good reason. Great presser. But, you know, one of the moments that I thought was just as great -- that didn't get as much love -- was when we were in Memphis.

There had been this big, long thing about him not starting a game because he'd been late for practice and then had ended up not playing for a couple games, and it turned into a little 'thing,' right?

And he was doing an interview at shootaround in Memphis and I was shooting at the basket behind him -- really because I just wanted to hear what he was saying.

And he was like: "I don't know no former MVP that come off the bench. I don't know no nine-time All-Star that come off the bench. I don't know no four-time scoring champ that come off the bench! Why is it always Allen Iverson's fault?!"

He went through his whole resume of, like, everything! And rightfully so, right?

And I was just like: 'Whoa! This is this is one of the greatest things I've ever heard!'

And got no love on TV. I mean, surely, if there had been social media like there is now back then, it would've gotten a lot more play, but it was still a great interview.

Aside from Iverson, were there any other veterans that took you under their wing?

Korver: Yeah, Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie was my guy.

He talked to me about how to practice, he would show me things during the game. But he did it the right way.

Like, a lot of veterans -- there's guys out there, they want everyone to know that they're helping the young guy. You know, it makes them look good. So, they're really doing it for themselves; they're not really doing it for you.

But Aaron would just pull you to the side when no one else was looking and just talk to you straight, encourage you. But then you get into practice and he would never let you sub him out. Like you'd like you'd ask him if he needed to come out during one of the drills, if he was tired. He's be like: "No, no!".

But that's a lesson in itself! That's a great lesson for a young player -- like: 'No, I don't want you coming in here taking my time on the practice court then taking my minutes during a game! I'm trying to play still." And that was a great lesson.

He'd take you out to eat. He would show you the ropes. He bought me a watch. I just thought: 'Wow. This is the best.'

And were there any veterans that were extra-tough with you?

Korver: Yeah, Eric Snow.

Man, Eric Snow was on me! I had to bring him a newspaper every morning -- USA Today. Man, I had to do a bunch of stuff for E-Snow. But he was there for you, too. But it was just tough love. (laughs) Yeah, it was really tough love.

Was there any initiation or hazing for the young guys back then?

Korver: Well, E-Snow, I had to bring him the paper every day. But you know, the usual, donuts and McDonald's.

The NBA has come so far, though. We don't do a lot of hazing anymore, and for good reasons, even though most of it's harmless.

Young guys don't have to do anything anymore.

Actually, you know, they probably have it too good.


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