Behind The Scenes

Daugherty on being NBA’s top pick


When the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2011 NBA draft lottery Tuesday to land the first overall pick, very few people were happier than ESPN NASCAR analyst Brad Daugherty.

While Daugherty is known to millions of NASCAR fans for his TV work and for being part-owner of a NASCAR Sprint Cup team, he also has a deep connection to the Cavs.

In 1986, after his brilliant collegiate career at the University of North Carolina, Daugherty was chosen by the Cavs as the No. 1 pick overall. The 7-footer went on to make five NBA All-Star teams and was on some of the most competitive teams in franchise history, so his reaction upon learning that his old team would get to pick first was not surprising.

“I got excited,” said Daugherty. “They’ve got two of the first four picks and that’s going to give them the opportunity to draft some cornerstones. They’ve struggled mightily since they lost LeBron [James] and that really set that whole franchise back about six or seven years.

“It did make me think back to ‘86 and how my whole deal worked out,” he said.

“I thought originally I was going to go to the [Philadelphia] 76ers and play with Charles Barkley and Moses Malone but I ended up in Cleveland with Mark Price, Ron Harper and John (Hot Rod) Williams. It was an exciting day at the draft and a lot of fun.”

Though his hoops career was cut short by back injuries, the lifelong NASCAR fan still pays attention to the Cavs when not analyzing the exploits of Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch for ESPN.

“I pull for the Cavs all the time,” he said. “I loved Cleveland and enjoyed playing basketball there. They’re a very proud, hard-working, blue collar town, and the people are just great. I want to see them get better and contend for a championship.

“Winning the lottery was a good day for Cleveland and they’ve got a chance to get back on the board,” he said.

“They need to be really smart and draft someone who can have a direct impact. I’m hoping there’s another [Chicago Bulls star and NBA MVP] Derrick Rose out there, because that’s what they need.”

ESPN will present the NBA Draft on Thursday, June 23, 7 p.m.

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