Andrea Bargnani of Italy made history on Wednesday as the Toronto Raptors selected him with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft on Wednesday, hoping the forward can live up to comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki.
The 2.13-meter forward, the first European player taken first overall, has drawn those comparisons to the Dallas Mavericks' All-Star because of his outside shooting skills. Playing last season for Benetton Treviso in Italy's Lega A, Bargnani shot 37 percent from 3-point range.
The Italian became the eighth international player to be selected with the first overall pick of the NBA Draft and the first No. 1 pick to not play university or high school basketball in the United States since Houston took Yao Ming of China in 2002.
Other international players selected number one were Andrew Bogut (Australia) in 2005, Michael Olowokandi (Nigeria) in 1998, Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands) in 1997, Patrick Ewing (Jamaica) in 1985, Akeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) in 1984 and Mychal Thompson (Bahamas) in 1978.
"It's an incredible feeling," Bargnani said. "I feel so excited, so proud to represent my country. It's an incredible sensation, I cannot describe in words. It's incredible."
Bargnani, whose nickname is "Il Mago" or "The Magician", said most Italians were focused on the World Cup but that his selection would get noticed back home.
"Tomorrow, I hope there's a little picture," he said.
Chicago chose University of Texas forward LaMarcus Aldridge with the second pick, one of the Bulls' two selections in the first round.
Gonzaga University star Adam Morrison went to Charlotte at No. 3. The Portland Trail Blazers - who were believed to want Morrison - instead selected LSU forward Tyrus Thomas. He led the South East Conference in blocked shots and was second in rebounding last season.