NEW YORK -- No player at the Barclays Center on Thursday was more elated to hear his name called during the NBA Draft than Villanova's Mikal Bridges.
In his television interview immediately after being selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the No. 10 pick, he sounded overcome with emotion, praising the organization and thanking them for taking a chance on him. His mother, Tyneeha Rivers, joined him on stage.
The storyline was too perfect to pass up.
Not only were the Sixers Bridges' hometown team, but Rivers is the vice president of human resources for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Sixers.
"It's amazing," Rivers said on ESPN. "It's an experience I'll never forget. I'm so excited he's coming home to be a part of our Sixers family. It's amazing. Go Sixers!"
It was as heartwarming a moment as you'll see at an event known for heartwarming moments. When Bridges made his way to the interview room, he called Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons "unbelievable." He said that, after his workout, Sixers coach Brett Brown had told him he liked how he could defend four positions. To call him satisfied with his evening would be an massive, ridiculous understatement.
"Just watching them, especially this year, growing up watching them, going to games when I was young, it's a blessing," Bridges said. "My mom working there, went to Villanova right around the corner, played in Wells Fargo throughout the whole year this year. It's just truly a blessing."
Bridges said his mother was probably even more excited.
"I'm a little mama's boy," he said. "Her son is right there around the corner again."
The only problem: A few minutes earlier, just as Bridges was being asked about Embiid and Simmons, word leaked out that he was going to be traded to the Phoenix Suns.
After leaving the interview room, Bridges was ushered into what the NBA calls the social media room. Oblivious to the news, he posed for photos -- and GIFs that will never be tweeted -- with his Sixers hat on. Again, he said he was excited to be "going back home." About 10 minutes after Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania broke the news of the trade in a tweet, Bridges left the room with the trade still unofficial and the player still unaware.
Bridges was then shepherded into a private lounge. Shortly thereafter, an NBA official emerged from the lounge, Sixers hat in hand. When Bridges eventually came back out, half an hour after Charania's tweet, he was wearing the Suns hat that was originally given to No. 16 selection Zhaire Smith.
Bridges' thoughts immediately turned to the disappointment his mother would be feeling.
"It's all right," Bridges said in the hallway, clearly still processing what had just happened. "She loves her job, it was cool, but I'm ready to work."
A reporter pointed out the obvious, that it would be hard not to be a bit bummed after the pure joy he displayed when he thought he was going to Philly. Bridges said that "things like this happen" and "this is a part of life," adding the immortal NBA cliche: "It's a business." Multiple draft-day trades do happen every year, but the details here make this one stand out.
According to Arizona Sports 98.7's John Gambadoro, this deal was not reached until the Suns were on the clock -- they reportedly planned to take one of his Villanova teammates, NCAA Tournament hero Donte DiVincenzo, before Philadelphia called. This gave Bridges more time than usual to picture himself in a Sixers uniform.
"I didn't know what they were saying," Bridges said. "I was confused when they told me. I was like, 'Oh, it's time to get ready for Phoenix.'"
Before having a chance to get ready for Phoenix, Bridges was shuffled around the arena a while longer, participating in the post-selection circuit that includes more media and photo ops. The Suns' Twitter account tweeted a screenshot of a since-deleted tweet from the Sixers' account featuring Bridges highlights, promising to "follow up with new ones next season."
"It's an immediate lesson that this is a business," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I think Mikal is probably primed to handle that better than anybody. He's a really grounded, intelligent young man. I joked with our guys -- we have a group text with our whole team -- I said, 'Mikal is as cool as the other side of the pillow. Me and his mom are more nervous than him.' That's just the kind of kid he is. He'll handle this well."
Wright was celebrating the Sixers pick with Bridges' family when they found out the news. He allowed that the trade was somewhat of a letdown, at least in the moment.
"Yeah, I mean, just because -- as a fan," Wright said. "And selfishly, just to have him close to us. I feel like a parent. You'd like to have him close to you. But you know, it's business. You know the Sixers have to do what's best for the Sixers. And I do know that [Suns general manager] Ryan McDonough and [owner Robert] Sarver wanted him bad. They gave up a first-round pick. They really value him. So I think long-term for him, going somewhere they really want him to play right away is going to be really good for him."
After posing under an #NBATwitter sign with his family -- all of them with Suns hats -- Rivers handed him her phone to take a call. On the back of the phone: a stick-on wallet, with a 76ers logo on it.