From LeBron to Zaza, the 2003 N.B.A. Draft Class Survivors Share a Bond


They were just five players among the many who arrived for the N.B.A.’s “rookie transition program” in 2003, with no way of knowing they would have such successful careers or outlast their peers.

Zaza Pachulia, a center from Georgia who had been drafted by the Orlando Magic, was just getting to know the others — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver and Carmelo Anthony — a little bit, at least. They were weeks from entering the league together, along with about 40 other young men. But before then, they had to acquire some life skills, courtesy of the N.B.A. program.

Like how to write personal checks.

“It was shocking to me how many new things I learned there,” Pachulia said in a recent interview.

Those five players would emerge as key members of one of the most celebrated draft classes in league history — a class that would produce nine All-Stars — and they are the only five who remain from a fraternity that has thinned with each passing season.

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