'It was up in the air' - Top pick Paolo Banchero surprised by Orlando Magic selection

By Sports Desk June 23, 2022

After the Orlando Magic won the NBA draft lottery, the franchise’s front office insisted they would keep their options open and hold their cards close to the chest.

The Magic succeeded, even surprising the player they picked first overall in Thursday’s draft.

Duke forward Paolo Banchero said he found out he would be the top selection just seconds before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took the stage to announce the pick.

“The information that I was being told was just that it was up in the air, Orlando wasn’t really sure yet and to just be ready for whatever,” Banchero said.

“I didn’t find out I was actually getting picked until about 20 seconds before the commissioner got on the stage. I didn’t really even have time to think about it or anything. It just kind of happened.”

While Banchero was part of a consensus top tier with Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Smith was considered the favourite to go first.

Magic president Jeff Weltman had hinted to the media that the team’s moves could be a surprise, but many dismissed those comments as gamesmanship.

“I think that it's important that people know that information is managed discreetly with us from every corner of this business, from agents to other teams to the media,” Weltman said. “And obviously, when you're playing poker, you don't put your cards on the table, right?”

Now that the pick has been made, however, all that matters is that Banchero produces on the court.

“We feel he was the best player in college basketball, and we feel that he will continue to grow every year for many years to come,” Weltman said.

Widely considered the most polished offensive player in the draft, Banchero showed the ability to create his own shot and to make plays for others during his freshman season at Duke, which ended in the Final Four.

The versatile 6-foot-10 forward believes he fits perfectly in Orlando.

“I feel like I will fit in great. The Magic have a lot of talent. They’re very deep,” Banchero said. “They also have a lot of dynamic forwards like myself, like Wendell [Carter], Franz Wagner.

“Adding myself, I feel like that’s going to give teams a lot of problems. That’s three 6-9, 6-10, 6-11 guys that can all dribble, pass and shoot, and have a high IQ.”

Banchero holds an Italian passport and said earlier this week that he plans on playing internationally for the Italy over the United States. However, he downplayed the significance of being the first player linked to Italy to be taken first overall since Andrea Bargnani in 2006.

“I don’t know if that’d be fair to Bargnani,” Banchero said. “Bargnani’s born and raised in Italy; I’m born and raised in Seattle, Washington, so I don’t want to take anything away from him.

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  • LeBron on top as Lakers dominance continues – The numbers behind James' new NBA record LeBron on top as Lakers dominance continues – The numbers behind James' new NBA record

    LeBron James brought the NBA to a standstill on Tuesday. Even the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was paused.

    With 38 points at Crypto.com Arena, James moved to 38,390 in his regular season career, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's long-standing record of 38,387.

    The four-time champion has been the league's pre-eminent star across stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat and the Lakers.

    Now, across basketball history, he stands alone.

    It is a remarkable achievement and only becomes more impressive when delving into the numbers behind James' new record.

    Beating the Thunder

    The Thunder may have put a slight dampener on James' big night by winning Tuesday's game, but the 38-year-old actually has more career points than Oklahoma City's entire active roster combined (21,900).

    Indeed, the Thunder are merely one of five rosters James can better, along with the Indiana Pacers (36,515), the Orlando Magic (33,164), the San Antonio Spurs (32,364) and the Houston Rockets (28,642).

    Had James not got over the line on Tuesday, he would have done instead against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday – and that would have been fitting, too.

    James has scored more points against the Bucks (1,751) than against any other team. In fact, the Thunder (994) are the team he has scored the third-fewest against – more only than against the Lakers (829) and the Cavaliers (580), two teams he represented.

    The Lakers forward scored at least 1,000 points against each of the other 27 teams, while he has scored 1,000 in each of his 20 NBA seasons. That is another record he has taken from Abdul-Jabbar (19).

    James would have no doubt enjoyed being able to achieve this legendary feat in front of a home crowd, but he has actually scored more points on the road (19,251 in 694 games) than at home (19,139 in 716).

    Unsurprisingly, however, Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is the arena to have seen the most James points (11,670). The Lakers' Crypto.com Arena (4,649) nudged ahead of the Heat's Miami-Dade Arena (4,613) into second place on Tuesday.

    Wade's helping hand

    In that home crowd in LA, sitting in front of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, was Dwyane Wade, a two-time title-winning team-mate of James' on the Heat.

    Wade also joined James on the Cavaliers for a season and, although now retired, has assisted more points for the new all-time scoring leader than any other player (776).

    Eric Snow (630) is second on that list, with Mario Chalmers (591) third and Mo Williams (501) fourth, followed by Kevin Love (486) and Kyrie Irving (469).

    Russell Westbrook has only been playing with James in LA since 2021, but he is ninth on 375. Anthony Davis (269) is 11th and Chris Bosh (267) 12th.

    Ricky Davis assisted James' first NBA points and 42 altogether. Davis, who retired in 2010, was the first of 148 different players to assist James.

    But the bulk of James' points have been unassisted, of course. His 26,855 unassisted points alone would rank him 13th in the all-time list, ahead of Kevin Durant (26,684), who is second to the Lakers man among active players.

    James has scored 10,882 points from layups, 8,074 from two-point jump shots and 8,047 from free throws. Of the rest, 6,711 have come from three-pointers, 4,190 from dunks, 310 from hook shots and 176 from tip-ins.

    Another Lakers record

    The record was reached with a fadeaway jumper, and several members of Lakers royalty were in the house to see it – including Abdul-Jabbar.

    James followed Abdul-Jabbar as the seventh different player to lead the NBA in all-time scoring since the end of the league's first season in 1946-47.

    Four of those seven have now represented the Lakers, with James and Abdul-Jabbar joined by George Mikan (1952-53 to 1957-58) and Wilt Chamberlain (1965-66 to 1983-84). Chamberlain took ownership of the record while a Philadelphia 76er, before playing for the Lakers.

    Chamberlain succeeded Bob Pettit, one of the remaining three who did not turn out for the Lakers. Joe Fulks, the leading scorer in the NBA's first season, and Dolph Schayes are the others.

    Luka Doncic, just 23 and with 8,531 points through 311 career games, is perhaps the most credible challenger to James' crown. James had 8,319 points through 311 games, albeit he was only 22.

    Matching James' longevity is a huge ask; either way, he will be number one for a long, long time.

    Time spent at the top is a record Abdul-Jabbar can at least retain for now, having ranked first in scoring for a mammoth 14,187 days. The NBA was only 13,671 days old when he took the record, meaning he led the league for more than half of its existence.

    Still more to achieve

    That is not the only Abdul-Jabbar mark that remains, with the 75-year-old out in front on 57,446 minutes played. James (53,743) is third, while he is tied for ninth in games played (1,410) – a statistic led by Robert Parish (1,611).

    Abdul-Jabbar is the man to beat for MVP awards, too, with six, and James' four appear unlikely to be added to now, given his age and the Lakers' woes.

    James should pass Abdul-Jabbar for All-Star selections, though, as the pair are tied on 19, while the modern great already has a leading 13 All-NBA First Team selections.

    In the playoffs, James already topped the charts for points (7,631) and games played (266), although the 'GOAT' debate will rage on as Michael Jordan has the edge in Finals MVPs (six to James' four).

    Among players with 500 or more games, Jordan (30.1) is also the leading man for points per game in the regular season, even if James (27.2 in fifth) is averaging 30.2 this year, the third-highest mark of his career.

    At that rate, even if James cannot reel in Jordan, he should be able to establish a considerable buffer to any and all pretenders to his new crown.

  • LeBron on top as Lakers dominance continues – The numbers behind James' new NBA record LeBron on top as Lakers dominance continues – The numbers behind James' new NBA record

    LeBron James brought the NBA to a standstill on Tuesday. Even the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was paused.

    With 38 points at Crypto.com Arena, James moved to 38,390 in his regular season career, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's long-standing record of 38,387.

    The four-time champion has been the league's pre-eminent star across stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat and the Lakers.

    Now, across basketball history, he stands alone.

    It is a remarkable achievement and only becomes more impressive when delving into the numbers behind James' new record.

    Beating the Thunder

    The Thunder may have put a slight dampener on James' big night by winning Tuesday's game, but the 38-year-old actually has more career points than Oklahoma City's entire active roster combined (21,900).

    Indeed, the Thunder are merely one of five rosters James can better, along with the Indiana Pacers (36,515), the Orlando Magic (33,164), the San Antonio Spurs (32,364) and the Houston Rockets (28,642).

    Had James not got over the line on Tuesday, he would have done instead against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday – and that would have been fitting, too.

    James has scored more points against the Bucks (1,751) than against any other team. In fact, the Thunder (994) are the team he has scored the third-fewest against – more only than against the Lakers (829) and the Cavaliers (580), two teams he represented.

    The Lakers forward scored at least 1,000 points against each of the other 27 teams, while he has scored 1,000 in each of his 20 NBA seasons. That is another record he has taken from Abdul-Jabbar (19).

    James would have no doubt enjoyed being able to achieve this legendary feat in front of a home crowd, but he has actually scored more points on the road (19,251 in 694 games) than at home (19,139 in 716).

    Unsurprisingly, however, Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is the arena to have seen the most James points (11,670). The Lakers' Crypto.com Arena (4,649) nudged ahead of the Heat's Miami-Dade Arena (4,613) into second place on Tuesday.

    Wade's helping hand

    In that home crowd in LA, sitting in front of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, was Dwyane Wade, a two-time title-winning team-mate of James' on the Heat.

    Wade also joined James on the Cavaliers for a season and, although now retired, has assisted more points for the new all-time scoring leader than any other player (776).

    Eric Snow (630) is second on that list, with Mario Chalmers (591) third and Mo Williams (501) fourth, followed by Kevin Love (486) and Kyrie Irving (469).

    Russell Westbrook has only been playing with James in LA since 2021, but he is ninth on 375. Anthony Davis (269) is 11th and Chris Bosh (267) 12th.

    Ricky Davis assisted James' first NBA points and 42 altogether. Davis, who retired in 2010, was the first of 148 different players to assist James.

    But the bulk of James' points have been unassisted, of course. His 26,855 unassisted points alone would rank him 13th in the all-time list, ahead of Kevin Durant (26,684), who is second to the Lakers man among active players.

    James has scored 10,882 points from layups, 8,074 from two-point jump shots and 8,047 from free throws. Of the rest, 6,711 have come from three-pointers, 4,190 from dunks, 310 from hook shots and 176 from tip-ins.

    Another Lakers record

    The record was reached with a fadeaway jumper, and several members of Lakers royalty were in the house to see it – including Abdul-Jabbar.

    James followed Abdul-Jabbar as the seventh different player to lead the NBA in all-time scoring since the end of the league's first season in 1946-47.

    Four of those seven have now represented the Lakers, with James and Abdul-Jabbar joined by George Mikan (1952-53 to 1957-58) and Wilt Chamberlain (1965-66 to 1983-84). Chamberlain took ownership of the record while a Philadelphia 76er, before playing for the Lakers.

    Chamberlain succeeded Bob Pettit, one of the remaining three who did not turn out for the Lakers. Joe Fulks, the leading scorer in the NBA's first season, and Dolph Schayes are the others.

    Luka Doncic, just 23 and with 8,531 points through 311 career games, is perhaps the most credible challenger to James' crown. James had 8,319 points through 311 games, albeit he was only 22.

    Matching James' longevity is a huge ask; either way, he will be number one for a long, long time.

    Time spent at the top is a record Abdul-Jabbar can at least retain for now, having ranked first in scoring for a mammoth 14,187 days. The NBA was only 13,671 days old when he took the record, meaning he led the league for more than half of its existence.

    Still more to achieve

    That is not the only Abdul-Jabbar mark that remains, with the 75-year-old out in front on 57,446 minutes played. James (53,743) is third, while he is tied for ninth in games played (1,410) – a statistic led by Robert Parish (1,611).

    Abdul-Jabbar is the man to beat for MVP awards, too, with six, and James' four appear unlikely to be added to now, given his age and the Lakers' woes.

    James should pass Abdul-Jabbar for All-Star selections, though, as the pair are tied on 19, while the modern great already has a leading 13 All-NBA First Team selections.

    In the playoffs, James already topped the charts for points (7,631) and games played (266), although the 'GOAT' debate will rage on as Michael Jordan has the edge in Finals MVPs (six to James' four).

    Among players with 500 or more games, Jordan (30.1) is also the leading man for points per game in the regular season, even if James (27.2 in fifth) is averaging 30.2 this year, the third-highest mark of his career.

    At that rate, even if James cannot reel in Jordan, he should be able to establish a considerable buffer to any and all pretenders to his new crown.

  • 'We will never see another LeBron' – Magic Johnson and Joe Biden lead 'King James' tributes 'We will never see another LeBron' – Magic Johnson and Joe Biden lead 'King James' tributes

    United States president Joe Biden has praised LeBron James for "inspiring the nation" after surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time regular season NBA scoring record.

    Los Angeles Lakers forward James entered Tuesday's game with the Oklahoma City Thunder needing 36 points to break Abdul-Jabbar's record, which had stood for 39 years.

    The four-time MVP moved past Abdul-Jabbar's 38,387 career points to go outright number one with a 14-foot fadeaway jumper late in the third quarter at Crypto.com Arena.

    James' game-high 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting with three steals were not enough to prevent the Lakers from losing 133-130 to the visiting Thunder.

    But it was job done on an individual level as he strengthened his case as being the greatest basketball player of all time – a debate that will rumble on for some time.

    A number of sports stars and wider global figures have paid tribute to James, who now has 38,390 career points to go with the four NBA titles won with three different teams.

    "LeBron, congratulations. With your whole heart and soul you broke a hell of a record. You elevated the game," US president Biden said in a video message. 

    "More than that, like Kareem, Bill Russell and others who came before you, you challenged and inspired the nation to be better, do better and live up to our full promise."

    James rose with both arms in celebration after making history and posed for photos with 75-year-old Abdul-Jabbar, who was in attendance in Los Angeles.

    Fellow Lakers great Magic Johnson said: "I never thought that Kareem's scoring record would be broken by anybody. 

    "It means more to myself and to our fans because you're wearing that purple and gold and broke it as a Laker. 

    "This historic moment is so special because we will never see another LeBron James."

    James has 7,314 points across five seasons with the Lakers, having previously scored 23,119 in 859 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers and 7,919 in 294 for the Miami Heat.

    NBA commissioner Adam Silver added: "It's a towering achievement that speaks to his sustained excellence over 20 seasons in the league. 

    "And quite amazingly, LeBron continues to play at an elite level and his basketball history is still being written."

    James is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, which is the seventh-best record in the division, narrowly ahead of Kevin Durant (29.7) and Stephen Curry (29.4).

    Golden State Warriors guard Curry and Brooklyn Nets forward Durant also congratulated James on his remarkable achievement.

    "Your sustained level of play for 20 years, reaching this pinnacle of scoring in basketball, it is unbelievable," Curry said. 

    "Way down the road, when we're reflecting back on our careers, we'll be able to be at that level knowing what it was like to battle at the highest level."

    Durant added: "It's even funny to just even say that, coming from where you have come from, how hard you grinded for this long. 

    "It's been an inspiration since day one. Much love and keep setting the bar high."

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