Draft Night 2018 was not what Mikal Bridges expected.
The two-time NBA champion and All-American at Villanova, born in Philadelphia, grew up in the Philly suburbs and he wanted to get drafted. His mother already worked in the NBA, in the 76ers front office.
And when the 76ers picked at No. 10, Mikal Bridges was thrilled. Then, 15 minutes later, the Philly braintrust traded his rights to the Suns for to Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-round pick who turned out to be Tre Mann. The feel good story of the evening, son unites with Mom, was thrown away.
On a podcast this week, Bridges reflects on that night ... and what happened behind closed doors...
*Dreams and Nightmares*— Point Forward (@pointforward) April 14, 2023
Mikal Bridges does not mince words about the 2018 NBA Draft.
"I was pissed off...I couldn't control my emotions...After everyone went out, I'm in my hotel room, like, F**K this."
Special @pointforward, @andre @thekidet x @mikal_bridges, a day away. pic.twitter.com/u9tSW1u9L6
“I was pissed off,” Bridges told Point Forward. “My whole life I wanted to get drafted, I didn’t think Top 10 ever. … I went Top 10 and I was pissed off. I couldn’t control my emotions. I was so mad. Even after everybody went out, I’m in my hotel room, like, ‘F**K this.’ I was hot. … That night I was pretty pissed off.”
Not only did Philly lose out on his talents, Bridges mom moved on as well. Tyneeha Rivers went from VP of Community Relations with the Sixers to Chief People Officer at Cureleaf, working in an office above Grand Central Station in New York.
Now, Bridges — and Rivers — will get a chance to level the field when the Nets head to Philly on Sunday. Bridges has averaged 12.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 11 games against the 76ers in his career. After being traded to the Nets, he essentially played in only one game vs the 76ers, two days after the trade deadline, a 23-point effort in his Nets debut. The Nets lost a close one that night and the next day, the NBA’s L2M report said that a key play in the last seconds was incorrect. (He also played in the Nets-Sixers season closer, but only four seconds to he could preserve his consecutive game streak.)
Bridges isn’t giving the Sixers any bulletin board material promising to rectify the wrongs of June 2018, instead simply noting he was a 76ers fan growing up, modeling his game after the two A.I.s, Allen Iverson and Andre Iguodala. But as Rivers told Brian Lewis, mom knows what’s what.
“It’s too funny because I grew up in Philly, and I grew up a Sixers fan myself,” Rivers, who raised Bridges as a single mom, told The Post. “But once Mikal was traded to Phoenix, I was a Phoenix Suns fan. Now my son is playing for the Nets, I’m a Brooklyn Nets fan.
“But it’s still surreal to see my son play against the hometown team, the team I grew up watching and cheering for. And how crazy is it, the team that he was originally drafted with, and now is playing against them in the playoffs. It’s crazy coming full circle and seeing all this come to life. It just blows my mind, but yet is so exciting at the same time.”
Bridges is close to his mom and after he scored 45 points in the Nets signature post-deadline era over the Heat, he took off his jersey and gave it to her courtside.
Of course, there’s a lot more going on here than a son trying to exact revenge on the team that traded him, his mom’s employer no less. The Nets star could become an NBA star if he continues the play that has made him a revelation since February 9. He’s also helped replace the lost stars traded at the deadline: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who despite their enormous talents won nothing more than a single playoff series.
Bridges, in the first year of a four-year, $90 million deal, has said he loves playing in Brooklyn, loves the fan base, loves the organization. And Rivers agrees. She admits to being a terrible flier and now will be a bridge away from where he plays, not 2,000 miles.
“Yeah, all teary eyed, all excited. Awesome ride,” Rivers told The Post about her reaction to the trade that centered on her son for KD. “You get traded and you’ve just got a lot of stuff going on. … But it seems to be a good fit. There’s good young talent on the team and I’m excited for the future for the Nets.”
She is excited too for him and what he can do back home in her and her son’s hometown, starting Saturday afternoon. She also knows that he’s got what she’s got: a drive.
“We kind of grew up together,” said Rivers who raised him as a single mom while getting her bachelor’s and masters degrees. “He was able to see that hustle and grind, what grit and determination really looks like early on. And it was easy to pass on to him. He’d see that grind and see me working all night, and he was like, ‘Oh my god, this is hard Mom. I can’t believe you’re still going to school.’ But it was something that was important to me that was easily transferable to him.”
- Nets’ Mikal Bridges learned work ethic from his single mom: ‘Grew up together’ - Brian Lewis - New York Post