News of Lang’s stroke first surfaced on Andersen’s blog last weekend. Andersen noted that Lang not only was the Flash’s first draft pick, but he also was his son’s favorite player. He wrote that Lang is “a big, kind guy who has always been willing to take time out of his day to care about a little 8 year old boy.”
New Orleans drafted Lang in the second round out of high school in 2003, but he never played for the Hornets. He later signed 10-day contracts with Atlanta and Toronto. Again, he did not play. He spent time with the Utah Jazz during the 2005 preseason and played in Israel.
Lang’s only NBA action came during an 11-game stretch with the Wizards from November 2006 to January 2007. In a game against Chicago, he had seven points, four rebounds and three blocks in nearly 20 minutes. But overall, he averaged just one point and one rebound in 5.0 minutes a game.
The Wizards cut Lang from their summer-league team in July. Just before his release, he talked to The Washington Times about the weight issues that curtailed his stay the first time around. “It was just the weight holding me back,” he said.
Then 45 pounds lighter, he said he had altered his eating habits, avoiding fast food and cookies for the most part. He used to eat hamburgers and french fries before games. “Now if I get hungry at nighttime, I just get a big fruit bowl and eat on it with some water,” he said.
Harris enrolled her son at Central Park Christian in 2001 after two years at a public high school, mainly for the school’s academic reputation. Parker, also the school’s founder and headmaster, recalled his first meeting with Lang. “In comes this 6-10, 390-pound fella we thought we’d have to open both doors for,” he said.
“I wanted a trainer to look at him and tell me what he could do and what he couldn’t do,” said Parker, who retired last spring after a 43-year coaching career during which he won more than 90 percent of his games. “I didn’t want to kill him. I say that facetiously, but look where he is right now.”
Parker said Lang showed good basketball skills considering he could barely move.
“Most people have to worry about kids doing drugs,” he said. “I had a 17-year-old whose mother said you’ve got to watch him about eating candy. She said he’ll hide it in his shoes.”
Blessed with soft hands and a nice shooting touch, Lang got into shape. Soon he was able to run the floor in Parker’s fast-paced offense and play the back line of the press. “We had to help James with his discipline, but he would do what you demanded,” Parker said. “His teammates loved him. He was so unselfish.”
Lang quickly began attracting the big college basketball powers. Parker said Louisville coach Rick Pitino “took a real personal interest” in him, but Jerry West and other NBA types were flocking to the gym. Lang chose to forgo college and enter the NBA Draft.
Parker said he stayed out of the decision-making process and would not second-guess Lang’s choice to turn pro even though it quickly seemed like the wrong choice.
“I wouldn’t do that with any kid,” he said. Then he added, “But Rick Pitino said he needed two years of college.”