Posted: Friday November 26, 2010 8:30AM ; Updated: Friday November 26, 2010 8:30AM
Ian Thomsen
Ian Thomsen>THE SIXTH MAN

The Sixth Man (cont.)

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The World

johan-petro.jpg
Now with the Nets, frenchman Johan Petro first dreamed about playing in the NBA two years before he was drafted.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

From the view of Johan Petro of France. Petro, 24, is a 7-foot center who is averaging 8.5 minutes with the New Jersey Nets. In six NBA seasons he has played for three teams and never scored more than 6.2 points per game. And as of Thursday morning, he had 330,639 followers on Twitter (@Frenchi27).

"People like to follow cool people," he said, jokingly. "But I don't know why. I ask this question every time I go on Twitter -- I have no idea. I wasn't paying attention to it, and then one of my teammates last year told me I had that many followers. They come from all over the place -- I've got a good bunch from China to Australia to back here [in the U.S.] to a little bit of everywhere in Europe."

It says everything about the size of the world and the popularity of the NBA that Petro has so many followers. Even he cannot believe the life he now lives. As a teenager in France, he used to wonder and worry about the NBA.

"I was scared go to it," he said. "But now it's just a blessing. Every day in life you're waking up and go do what you love to do. Whatever you're taught about the NBA, it's got nothing to do with what the reality is. It is 10 times better than anything else. I had no idea."

Petro was born in Paris. At 13, his parents convinced him to begin playing basketball. "I was getting really tall and I had to do some type of activities," he said. "I always thought the NBA was inaccessible for me because I was from overseas. So it came late when I saw the scouts coming. It was when I was 17."

Less than two years after he began to dream -- and worry -- he found himself starting 41 games as a rookie for the Seattle SuperSonics, who had picked him at No. 25 in the first round of 2005 draft. He moved with the franchise to Oklahoma City and was traded to Denver in time to help the Nuggets reach the 2009 Western Conference finals. Last summer, he signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Nets.

How long will he play in the NBA? "As long as possible."

Where will he live when he retires? "Probably between here," he said of the U.S., "and home, probably in the south [of France], St. Tropez or Nice -- somewhere nice."

He spoke of improving every day and establishing himself as a long-term center in the NBA. He spoke of someday having children who will grow up on both sides of the ocean and learn to speak five languages. Nothing is as he imagined it would be. He doesn't worry so much anymore.

The List

The best draft class ever. The 1970 draft produced 13 All-Stars and seven Hall-of-Famers. In those days before free agency, the draft went 19 rounds. "How many classes have two second-round picks who went to the Hall of Fame?" asked Dave Cowens, 40 years later. Two latter-round centers also are in the Hall of Fame -- Dan Issel was an afterthought choice because he was headed to the ABA (as were Billy Paultz and Charlie Scott), while Dino Meneghin would remain in his native Italy to become one of the greatest players in European history. Here's a look at the draft order and career achievements of the Class of 1970:

1970: Greatest NBA Draft Class
Overall Pick Name Position Team Career
1. Bob Lanier C Detroit Pistons Hall of Fame
2. Rudy Tomjanovich F San Diego Rockets Five-time All-Star
3. Pete Maravich G Atlanta Hawks Hall of Fame
4. Dave Cowens F/C Boston Celtics Hall of Fame
5. Sam Lacey C Cincinnati Royals One-time All-Star
7. John Johnson F Cleveland Cavaliers Two-time All-Star, starter for 1978-79 Sonics championship team
8. Geoff Petrie G Portland Trail Blazers Co-rookie of the year (with Cowens), two-time All-Star
9. George Johnson C Baltimore Bullets Led NBA in blocks three seasons, rotational backup for 1974-75 Warriors championship team
13. Jim McMillian F Los Angeles Lakers Starter who averaged 18.8 points for 1971-72 Lakers who won 33 in a row
18. Calvin Murphy G San Diego Rockets Hall of Fame
19. Nate "Tiny" Archibald G Cincinnati Royals Hall of Fame
40. Gar Heard F Seattle SuperSonics Made the buzzer-beater to extend Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals at Boston, known as the greatest game in history
103. Billy Paultz C/F San Diego Rockets Three-time ABA All-Star
106. Charlie Scott G/F Boston Celtics Five-time ABA/NBA All-Star, member of 1975-76 Celtics championship team
122. Dan Issel C/F Detroit Pistons Hall of Fame
182. Dino Meneghin C Atlanta Hawks Hall of Fame
205. Randy Smith G/F Detroit Pistons Two-time All-Star (MVP of 1977-78 game), second-team All-NBA in 1975-76, set NBA record for 906 straight games 1972-82

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