The structure of the NBA draft has been all over the place. In 1960, the NBA draft consisted of 21 rounds. In the early years, there were territorial picks. Since then, the draft has gone from 10 rounds to seven before dwindling down to its current two rounds since 1989. Famed Olympian Bruce Jenner and well-known cartoon doggie Scooby-Doo may have had a little something to do with the limited rounds of today.
The history of the NBA draft
From 1947-1965, the league had territorial picks where a team, before the draft started, could forfeit its first pick and take a player from its area. The Boston Celtics did this in 1956 when they used a territorial pick to select Tommy Heinsohn out of Holy Cross.
From 1966-84, the league used a coin flip to determine which team got the right to draft first. The worst team in each of the two conferences would flip a coin to see which team would select first. The team that lost the flip would choose second and then teams would choose in reverse order of their win-loss record.
In 1985, the draft lottery began. Teams that didn’t make the playoffs were put in a lottery that would determine the order of the draft. Various versions of the lottery have followed suit with the current weighted lottery coming in beginning with the 1990 season. In 1989, the draft was whittled down to two rounds.
The NBA’s good and bad drafts
In 2003, LeBron James was the first player selected, and after draft bust Darko Milicic was taken second, three straight future NBA All-Stars were taken. Carmelo Anthony was taken third overall by the Denver Nuggets. Anthony was followed by Chris Bosh, selected by the Toronto Raptors. Picked fifth by the Miami Heat was Dwayne Wade out of Marquette.
The 1984 NBA draft might even be better as Hakeem Olajuwon was taken first, just ahead of Sam Bowie. Jordan was taken third by the Chicago Bulls, followed by Sam Perkins and Charles Barkley. Also selected in the first round that year were Kevin Willis, Otis Thorpe, and John Stockton.
One of the worst draft classes has to be the 2000 group, led by Kenyon Martin, who was selected first. After Martin, Mike Miller, taken fifth overall, had the most success in the NBA.
Bruce Jenner selected in 1977
The 1977 NBA draft was stacked, but it was also the weirdest draft in NBA history. Kent Benson, Otis Birdsong, and Marques Johnson were the top three players selected in the draft of ‘77 and the list of big-time NBA players was just getting started. Also drafted in the first round that year were Walter Davis, Bernard King, Jack Sikma, Cedric Maxwell, and Tree Rollins. Throw in Ricky Green, Norm Nixon, Ernie Grunfeld, Greg Ballard, Brad Davis, and Kenny Carr and you have one heck of a draft class.
The top eight players selected in the 1977 draft went on to play a combined 98 years in the NBA, and that doesn’t even include the 18 years in which Rollins played. Clearly, the 1977 draft was top-heavy. It’s when the later rounds came along that the draft became very weird.
In the seventh round, with the 137th overall pick, the New Orleans Jazz selected Lusia Harris, a woman out of Delta State. Harris was pregnant at the time and never played for the Jazz. Two selections later, the Kansas City Kings selected Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner, who hadn’t played the sport since high school. The Jenner selection was clearly a publicity stunt by the lowly Kings, who were overshadowed by the Kansas City Chiefs.
If that wasn’t weird enough, things got so out of hand in that draft that the Los Angeles Lakers reportedly selected Scooby-Doo and a wooden chair, both of which were quickly rejected by the NBA. Apparently, the NBA later realized there was no longer a need for seven rounds.