“A Heart-Stopping Moment” - Giddey Lives Out Dream as Part of Thunder’s 2021 NBA Draft Class
BROOKLYN—When Adam Silver strode across the stage inside Barclays Center to deliver the Oklahoma City Thunder’s selection at pick six, 19-year-old Australian wing Josh Giddey, his three sisters and his parents all rose from their seats to celebrate around their circular table. There was so much height and wingspan at the table that ESPN’s draft analyst Jay Bilas might have done a double-take from across the room. Giddey, after hugging his parents, both of whom also played professionally in Australia’s NBL and WNBL, needed a moment to collect himself too.
“It’s surreal,” Giddey said in an exclusive interview with okcthunder.com. “There’s a lot of emotions going through me right now. To hear and see Adam Silver walk on the stage and call your name, I can speak for all the guys, it’s a heart-stopping moment. You dream of this all your life and you watch it on TV for so many years. For it to be a reality and for me to be with the Thunder is a dream come true.”
Getting the family together will be a little bit easier for the Giddey crew this year because there are now two siblings who call Oklahoma their basketball home. Giddey’s sister Hannah is currently playing at Oral Roberts University, just a 90-minute drive from Paycom Center where Josh will see his first NBA action. The Thunder’s fourth preseason game this year will be against the Denver Nuggets at Tulsa’s BOK Center, and you can bet that date is already circled on the Giddey family calendar.
The eighth Australian ever to be drafted in the first round and the highest drafted from his country since Ben Simmons in 2016, Giddey is another shining example of how the NBA’s investment in global outreach has paid dividends in generating talent. Giddey became the 11th former Basketball Without Borders camper to be drafted in the top 10 over the last five years and in 2018 won the MVP of a tournament in Barcelona when he played with the NBA Academy.
Touted as the best passer in the draft, Giddey dazzled in his sole season with the Adelaide 36ers of the NBL, where he tried to follow in the footsteps of Simmons and LaMelo Ball, high lottery picks themselves. An excellent playmaker in pick-and-rolls and a strong rebounder at his position, Giddey views himself as someone who can help make the Thunder better in a variety of ways.
“Playmaking and getting my teammates involved is something that I want to do and I love doing,” said Giddey. “It brings me joy to see my teammates succeed. I love putting them in positions to succeed and being able to get them the ball in the right spots at the right time.”
“I can’t speak highly enough of the staff and the organization when I met them. The conversations I had with them, the second they ended, I’m just like ‘this is where I want to be. Oklahoma is where I want to be.’,” said Giddey. “The direction they’re headed in is something special and something I wanted to be a part of.”
After getting his handshake with Silver on stage, Giddey was whisked through about a dozen interviews and media stations, starting with interviews with national television outlets just off the stage. Once he was done, Giddey, donning a navy tux with black lapels, white sneakers and his Thunder draft hat, dropped into a virtual interview room, where he fielded questions from journalists all the way back home in Australia and from his new home in Oklahoma City.
Up next was a social media station that took up residence in a weight room in the bowels of Barclays Center. Giddey chatted with more international media, talked about his experience becoming the first NBA Academy graduate to get drafted into the NBA and took a selfie video for @okcthunder social channels. Once he was done with all his obligations, Giddey’s parents and his three sisters awaited him in a room filled with his fellow draftees. Adorned with Thunder hats and beaming smiles, the Giddey crew was ready to ship off into the New York City night to enjoy the life-altering evening.
“I’m going to spend tonight just enjoying this moment,” Giddey said. “This happens once in your life. To have my family and my close circle here with me tonight, it means the world.”
While Giddey was the only 2021 Thunder draftee who was in attendance on Thursday night, the team was far from done with its work. At the beginning of the night, the Thunder held six selections, 10 percent of the draft. It traded out of the number 16 slot to earn two future first round picks, and then at number 18 it took Tre Mann, a sharp-shooting guard from the University of Florida. Mann shot 40 percent from 3 in his sophomore campaign, as the late bloomer used a recent growth spurt to his advantage on drives and floaters in the lane as well.
In the second round, the Thunder consolidated two selections at 34 and 36 to move up to 32 to take Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a physical 6-foot-9 presence in the paint who spent two seasons with the Villanova Wildcats. Finally, at pick 55, the Thunder took a 6-foot-6 wing in Aaron Wiggins, who spent three years at the University of Maryland.
After the night their NBA dreams came true, all four players will enjoy their time soaking it all up, but before they know it they’ll be on a flight to Oklahoma City to be introduced to their new city and to get started on their developmental journey with the organization.