NBA Draft History (From the
The NBA draft is all the rage. Prospects are
dissected, analyzed, and compared to heroes of yesteryear. There is the
pre-draft camp, the endless talk show hustle as well as fantasy drafts.
Preceded by hype, hope and hoopla, the NBA Draft finally arrives with a
cast of hundreds of personalities, nationally televised hour after hour.
And then there is the endless post-draft commentary.
Once upon a time things were quite different in a
simpler world and a smaller NBA. The first draft in 1947 saw first-round
selections made by Pittsburgh, Boston, Providence, New York,
Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago, Washington and Baltimore. No name from
that first-round faraway time (aside from Knicks draftee Walt Dropo, who
went on to a distinguished Major League baseball career) had any kind of
real basketball impact.
The records from that primitive time are so shrouded
in a time warp that a couple of the players drafted in '47 like Bob
Alemeida and George Petrovick have a question mark next to their name
signifying a lack of information as to the college they played for.
A few non-first-round players went on to make a name
for themselves in pro ball like Andy Phillip out of Illinois, Jim
Pollard from Stanford, Bob Kurland of Oklahoma A&M, and Red Rocha who
had played at Oregon State.
A footnote to NBA history is Tony Lavelli of Yale,
taken by Boston in the 1949 Draft. He went on to play the accordion for
the Celtics at half time, sometimes. But contrary to rumors, his musical
skill was not one of the reasons for Boston drafting him.
The 1950 Draft went 10 rounds for some teams and 12
for others, as a few teams lost interest. Territorial picks were
sometimes much fought over and debated. The exclusive right to draft a
player who came from a team's geographical region gave Philadelphia the
legendary Paul Arizin in 1950.
A couple of others who went on to fame and glory were
picked in that draft: Bud Grant (NFL) by Minneapolis and Bob Cousy by
The 1951 NBA Draft lasted 12 rounds, but most teams
stopped picking by then.
The First Round went this way:
Team Player College
1 (Baltimore) Gene Melchiorre, Bradley
2 (TriCities) Mel Hutchins, Brigham Young
3 (Indianapolis) Marcus Freiberger, Oklahoma
4 (Ft Wayne) Zeke Sinicola, Niagara
5 (Syracuse) John McConathy, NW Louisiana
6 (NY Knicks) Ed Smith, Harvard
7 (Boston) Ernie Barrett, Kansas State
8 (Rochester) Sam Ranzino, North Carolina State
9 (Philadelphia) Don Sunderlage, Illinois
10 (Minneapolis) Whitey Skoog, Minnesota*
*The pick of Skoog was a Territorial one.
In the sixth round, the New York Knicks plucked Al
McGuire from St. John's. The last player picked was John Burke of
Springfield, Massachusetts by Baltimore in the 12th round. By 1966, the
territorial selections were eliminated. A year later, the New York
Knicks used their fifth pick to get Walt Frazier and their 17th to
obtain Phil Jackson.
In the ensuing years, all kinds of marquee players and
also-rans have made their way onto NBA rosters through the draft. In my
opinion, the 1970 and 1981 NBA Drafts rank among the all-time best
yielding bumper crops of players.
The 1970 NBA Draft yielded such greats as Dave Cowens
by Boston (4th); Pete Maravich by Atlanta (3rd); Bob Lanier by Detroit
(1st); Calvin Murphy by San Diego (18th); and Geoff Petrie by Portland
The 1981 draft included such gems as Isiah Thomas by
Detroit (2nd); Mark Aguirre by Dallas (1st); Buck Williams by New Jersey
(3rd); Tom Chambers by San Diego (8th); Rolando Blackman by Dallas
(9th); Danny Ainge by Boston (31st); Kelly Tripuka by Detroit (12th);
Orlando Woolridge by Chicago (6th); and Eddie Johnson by Kansas City
Who knows what the NBA Draft 2010 has in store. Stay
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
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