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An Oral History Of The 2003 Lottery And Draft - ESPN

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NEW YORK - JUNE 26: LeBron James who was selected number one overall in the first round by the Cleveland Cavailiers shakes hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern during the 2003 NBA Draft at the Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden on June 26, 2003 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabran | Getty

There aren't many things in professional sports that live up to the hype. The 2003 NBA draft was one of them.

Excitement was building for over a year -- first among league executives and then among fans -- about the new blood on its way. And boy, did the league need it.

The NBA was in a recession. With Michael Jordan retired, for good this time, and a scarcity of marketable young stars, fan interest had waned. Outside of the Los Angeles Lakers and their stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, the league didn't have many national draws.

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