(Michael J. LeBrecht II | NBAE via Getty Images)

Josh's Dream Come True

Giddey's Weekend

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com

Two years ago, a 17-year-old Josh Giddey was inside of Chicago’s United Center watching wide-eyed at the 2020 NBA All-Star game from nosebleed seats. He was a part of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program at the time and could only dream of one day taking the court during All-Star Weekend.

As the 19-year-old zipped all over downtown Cleveland for events and activations this weekend, he thought to himself, “You’re done watching the All-Star Weekend, you’re actually participating in it.”

Though the Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge that Giddey would be competing in weren’t until Friday and Saturday, he hit the ground running on Thursday afternoon. The whirlwind began with Skills Challenge practice just hours after stepping off the plane. From there, Giddey had time to shower before running through the gauntlet of the All-Star Weekend media circuit. 

The 19-year-old bounced around from booth to booth, smiling for pictures, posing for portraits and answering in-depth questions. The labyrinth of media outlets and the spectacle of the photo stations was the rookie’s first taste at the pomp and circumstance that encompasses All-Star Weekend.

It all started to settle in for Giddey when he arrived at the locker room at Rising Stars practice Friday morning. Up to that point, the rookie hadn’t had much time to stop and think about where he was and what that meant. In the locker room at Cleveland State University, Giddey took a look at his uniform hanging in his locker with his last name and Number 3 and it finally hit him – he’s at All-Star Weekend. 

“When we first got in, it was pretty rushed to try to get settled in and stuff,” said Giddey. “But when you get here and you see the jersey, it really sinks in.”

The light practice consisted of getting shots up and getting comfortable on the floor, but for Giddey, the most impactful element of it all was the ability to build camaraderie with his young peers from around the league. It would be a theme for the entire weekend. 

Giddey grew up on the other side of the world in Melbourne, Australia—a 12-hour plane ride from any AAU tournaments or showcase events in the United States where many of his young, NBA counterparts participated. Unlike most of his Rising Star teammates, this weekend was Giddey’s first opportunity to really get to know the other rookies and he soaked it up.

“For me, that’s the best part about this weekend," said Giddey.  “There are other rookies that we play against, but you don't necessarily get to spend time with or hang out with them. I think this weekend is a great opportunity to do that.”

Giddey made several highlight-worthy connections and alley-oops with his teammates during the Rising Stars Challenge. He laughed and joked with his rookie teammates Scottie Barnes and Cade Cunningham during and after the Skills Challenge. 

He had the chance to catch up with fellow Australian Patty Mills who he looked up to as a young Aussie point guard. He met and spoke with NBA Hall-of-Famer James Worthy who coached his Rising Stars Team and was surrounded by NBA legends and greats such as Isiah Thomas, Rick Barry and Gary Payton throughout the entire two day stretch. 

You don’t get that in the nosebleeds.

“It's hard to put into words when you got to actually see these guys in real life. you hear so many stories and how good they are and then you meet them and it's a whole other level,” said Giddey. “To be in the presence of all these guys, it's a really special kind of atmosphere.”

Giddey may not have walked away with any hardware from the events, but between the new connections, the grandeur of the weekend and the opportunity to represent both Australia and the Oklahoma City Thunder on NBA’s biggest stage, Giddey walked away from the weekend with memories he’ll never forget. 

“It's a dream come true,” said Giddey. “It's every kid's dream to be in an All-Star Weekend and it doesn't really sink in – it still hasn't. I'm out on the floor doing things I've watched on TV for so many years. I'm blessed to be here and it was a great weekend.”