Etan Thomas, Mark Cuban’s first ever draft pick, joins The Forgotten Maverick Podcast
Let’s go back to June of 2000, Syracuse University’s Etan Thomas was fresh off his senior season, where he was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year and was preparing for the NBA Draft, not sure where he would be headed. Thomas recalls working out for several teams heading into the draft. “I worked out for like 10 teams,” said Thomas. “My range was from maybe 8 to 15, that was my range. I think I worked out for all of them, and then a few more. After a while I was like ‘I can’t work out for anyone else, I’m tired.’ It was like, whoever is going to take me is going to take me.” Thomas must have left a lasting impression on the Mavericks’ front office, because they were the first team he worked out for and ended up selecting him with the 12th pick in the draft. Thomas became the first Maverick drafted in the Mark Cuban Era.
Expectations were rising in Dallas heading into that season. The previous year the team barely missed the playoffs, and finished the season on a roll, winning 9 of their last 10 games. Thomas was excited to be joining the organization. “It was great, it was Mark Cuban’s first draft class. It was Courtney Alexander, Eduardo Najera, and Donnell Harvey, and I thought we had a good little young unit,” Thomas recalls. He was eager to learn from the Mavericks relatively young but established core of veterans. “We were young players then, we were young. We were looking at Michael Finley, Steve Nash, Dirk, Gary Trent, and the veterans, and just seeing how they do things and watching them.”
Unfortunately, Thomas was never able to suit up for the Mavericks his rookie season. A toe injury that eventually required surgery kept him out of the lineup. Thomas spent his time on the sidelines observing the team and learning. “Watching the veterans was great. And then being able to talk to Mark Cuban, he was an interesting character. You had never really seen somebody in his position act the way that he acted. He had a locker in our locker room, and he would be working out with us…..it was all an awakening to the NBA, just watching. That’s what I was doing my rookie year, a lot of watching.”
By the time February 2001 rolled around, the Mavericks were looking to shake up their front court, and traded Thomas (along with fellow rookie Courtney Alexander, Hubert Davis, Christian Laettner, and Loy Vaught) to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Juwan Howard, Obinna Ekezie, and 2001 playoff hero Calvin Booth. Thomas went on to play for the Wizards for several more seasons, before spending his final NBA seasons with the Thunder (serving as a much needed veteran presence on a young team with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden), and the Atlanta Hawks.
Today, Thomas has made an even bigger name for himself off the court by becoming a published author, a political activist, a humanitarian, and a poet. In addition to this, Thomas runs the Etan Thomas Foundation, where the mission is to “utilize public celebrity to capture young people’s attention to reinforce positive behavior messaging and provide concrete decision making tactics that will lead youth to academic success and support their becoming productive citizens.”
Thank you for listening, I hope you enjoy the episode. #MFFL
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