The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick Thursday, making the Duke point guard their first of two choices in the top four of the NBA draft.
Loudly cheered by family and friends not far from where he starred at St. Patrick's High School in Elizabeth, Irving showed no signs of any lingering problems with a right foot injury as he walked up the stairs to shake hands with Commissioner David Stern.
Despite playing 11 games in his only college season because of a toe injury, Irving was too good to pass up with the Cavaliers' first No. 1 pick since taking LeBron James in 2003.
The draft gives them a chance to quickly rebuild less than a year after James left for Miami, as they also owned the No. 4 selection that they used on Texas forward Tristan Thompson.
Irving has said he has no health concerns, making him the best choice in what's been called a weak draft.
"Looking forward to getting to Cleveland, feels good to finally put a hat on," Irving said.
The Minnesota Timberwolves took Arizona forward Derrick Williams with the No. 2 pick. The Utah Jazz then took Turkish big man Enes Kanter third with their first of two lottery selections.
The league's uncertain labor hung over the draft, and likely weakened it. Potential top-10 picks such as Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Harrison Barnes were among those who decided to stay in school, without knowing when their rookie seasons would have started.
Stern, who could lock out his players next week if a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached, was booed when he came onto the stage at the Prudential Center, which is hosting the draft while its usual home, Madison Square Garden, is undergoing summer work.
So the draft is filled with question marks, with a number of unknown European players expected to go in the first round. Kanter hasn't played competitively in a year, forced to sit out last season at Kentucky after being ruled ineligible for being paid to play in Turkey.
Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas went fifth to Toronto and Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic was taken sixth by Washington. Bismack Biyombo of Congo went seventh to Sacramento — a pick that will be traded — as the record of nine international first-round picks in 2003 quickly became threatened.
The 18-year-old forward will end up in Charlotte as part of a three-way deal agreed to earlier that also included Milwaukee, a person familiar with the deal said Thursday.
Irving becomes the third point guard taken first in the last four years, following Derrick Rose in 2008 and John Wall last year. Rose was the NBA's MVP this season, ending James' two-year reign.