(NEW YORK) — Bernard James was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Thursday night’s NBA Draft with the 33rd overall pick, and then traded to the Dallas Mavericks. But more importantly, James’ journey to the NBA began when he was 17, enlisting into the Air Force.
James completed a six-year term in the United States Air Force before being drafted on Thursday. James picked up a basketball at the age of 14, but wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father Darryl, who served 15 years in the Army and seven years in the Air Force.
“My supervisor Erick Dumas in the Air Force, he kind of got me started with basketball,” James told ESPN Radio after being selected. “I really just developed a love for the game.”
The 27-year-old guarded thousands of detainees at Camp Bucca while in Iraq. Then at his stop in Qatar, James secured buildings and airplanes. And in Afghanistan, he worked as military law enforcement.
“I have a bunch of friends that are still in the military, they tell me all the time that I’m doing a great job representing them,” James told ESPN Radio. “It just makes me feel good to feel like I’m still a part of the military and I’m still contributing.”
James became the oldest collegian player selected in the past 20 years, passing Dikembe Mutumbo, who turned 25 after being selected in 1991.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN