Tales from NBA Draft history - From the Vault
The NBA draft of 2014 is all the
rage. And in many ways the hype, ballyhoo and hoopla thus year seems
more than ever. There has been the pre-draft camp, the endless talk show
hustle, the fantasy drafts. Soon the NBA draft out of Brooklyn, New
York will arrive with a cast of hundreds of personalities, nationally
televised hour after hour. And then there will be the endless post-draft
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
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
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 Tri-Cities.
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,
2 (TriCities) Mel Hutchins, Brigham
3 (Indianapolis) Marcus Freiberger,
4 (Ft Wayne) Zeke Sinicola, Niagara
5 (Syracuse) John McConathy, NW
6 (NY Knicks) Ed Smith, Harvard
7 (Boston) Ernie Barrett, Kansas
8 (Rochester) Sam Ranzino, North
9 (Philadelphia) Don Sunderlage,
10 (Minneapolis) Whitey Skoog,
*The pick of Skoog was a Territorial
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 2014 has in store for us.
# # #
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Harvey Frommer at:
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.
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