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Cavaliers draft Bernard James, “ U-S-A” chant breaks out

Bernard James

Florida State center Bernard James shakes spectators’ hands moments after being picked with the third pick in the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 28, 2012, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

AP

Bernard James is a guy you can root for. A guy I am rooting for.

And him going up to the stage may have been the best moment of the 2012 NBA Draft. The “U-S-A” chant gives me chills.

He got drafted into the NBA at age 27 by the Cavaliers (who traded him to the Dallas Mavericks as part of the Tyler Zeller deal). James didn’t play high school ball — he dropped out of high school at 16 and joined the Air Force at 17. He spent six years in the military and served three tours of duty overseas, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar.

He talked about his experience with Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com, and what he saw over there will make you grow up fast.

“I worked at a detainment facility, guarding 22,000 detainees,” James said of his tour in Iraq. "[There were] suspected terrorists awaiting trial over there. It was rough. There were murders every day. We got mortar-attacked a couple times. One landed about 75 feet from me one time. That knocked me on my butt. It was definitely dangerous over there. Scary.”

James also went on a growth spurt while in the military and by the time he left to go to college after the Air Force he was the kind of big athlete (6'9", 230) college programs are looking for. His offensive game is raw but he brings strong defense, shot blocking and a real work ethic and passion to his game.

We’ll have to see how his NBA career pans out. But I’m rooting for it to be both good and long.