Strangest NBA Draft Facts
The NBA draft can get weird. Started in 1947, this annual event has taken some league-altering twists and turns over the years.
Picking apart drafts is the ultimate game of sports sliding doors. What if they picked this guy? What if they'd passed on that player for this one instead? It's an endless rabbit hole of guessing, but what we do know is that some odd things have impacted the game we know today.
These are the strangest facts from every year of the NBA draft.
1947: Walt Dropo Picks MLB Over NBA, NFL
Walt Dropo was a three-sport star at the University of Connecticut in football, basketball and baseball.
He was picked No. 4 overall by the Providence Steamrollers and in the ninth round of the 1946 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. Dropo, smartly, turned his back on football and basketball and played 13 MLB seasons as a first baseman for five teams.
Dropo was named American League Rookie of the Year in 1950, the same year he led the AL in RBIs.
1948: Bobby Wanzer, New York Go Hand in Hand
Hall of Famer Bobby Wanzer was the No. 10 pick by the Rochester Royals and became a five-time All-Star. He also was a stunning model of consistency.
Wanzer played high school ball in New York City, college ball for Seton Hall in New Jersey, pro ball for all 10 seasons for the Royals, following them from Rochester to Cincinnati.
Wanzer coached at St. John Fisher College in Rochester for 24 years, retiring in 1988.
1949: Alex Groza's Career Becomes Huge 'What If?'
In the history of the NBA, few players have dominated in their first two seasons like No. 2 pick Alex Groza did for the Indianapolis Olympians. But that's where it ended.
After two All-NBA seasons, Groza was banned from the NBA for life for his role in a wide-ranging point scandal when he played for the University of Kentucky, where he won two national titles.
Alex wasn't the only pro athlete in his family, either. His older brother, Lou Groza, was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman and kicker for the Cleveland Browns.
1950: Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper Make NBA History
Awesome draft fact right here. Chuck Cooper and Earl Lloyd became the first two African-American players taken in the NBA draft in 1950, with Lloyd the first to play an NBA game.
Lloyd played 11 seasons in the NBA and won a championship with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955. Cooper made his debut in the NBA just a few days later.
Lloyd was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 and died in 2015, at 86 years old. Cooper, who died in 1984, was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 2019.
1951: Picking AAU Over NBA
Until the late 1950s, one of the NBA's toughest competitors for the best players coming out of college was the National Industrial Basketball League — made up of powerful AAU teams sponsored by large companies.
That's where No. 3 pick Marc Freiberger spent his entire career with two teams: the Caterpillar Diesels and the Houston Ada Oilers.
Freiberger also won a gold medal for Team USA in the 1952 Olympics.
1952: Gene Conley Lives Sports Fantasy
There is only one person who can say he won both an NBA championship and a World Series — 1952 10th-round pick Gene Conley.
Conley pitched in the majors for 11 seasons, was a four-time All-Star and won the World Series with the Milwaukee Braves as a teammate of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.
Conley also played six seasons in the NBA and won three straight titles with the Celtics from 1959 to 1961 as a role player on teams with Bill Russell and Bob Cousy.
1953: Ken Sears Brings Hoops to Sports Illustrated
Fourteenth-round pick Ken Sears was a player from the 1950s who would have been pretty comfortable in today's game.
The 6-foot-9 forward could play both small forward and power forward and was a two-time All-Star who led the NBA in field-goal percentage twice.
Most importantly, Sears was the first basketball player on the cover of Sports Illustrated — on the Dec. 2, 1954, issue.
1954: Jim Paxson Builds NBA Bridge for Sons
University of Dayton star and 11th-round pick Jim Paxson didn't have a lengthy NBA career — he only played two seasons. His real impact was the influence he had on his two sons, Jim and John.
Jim played 11 seasons in the NBA, was a two-time All-Star and eventually became general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Youngest son John played 11 seasons in the NBA, won three championships with the Bulls and hit the series-winning 3-pointer in the 1993 NBA Finals.
John also was a general manager and executive for the Bulls from 2009 to 2020.
1955: K.C. Jones Never Stops Winning
In the history of team sports, few athletes have won at the level of No. 13 overall pick K.C. Jones.
To wit, Jones won two NCAA titles at the University of San Francisco as a teammate of fellow Hall of Famer Bill Russell, eight NBA titles as a player with the Celtics (once again with Russell), two NBA titles as an assistant coach for the Celtics and two more as head coach of the Celtics in 1984 and 1986.
1956: 'Swede' Takes Bizarre Path
One of the more enigmatic players in the history of professional basketball was 7-foot-3 Wade "Swede" Halbrook, a fourth-round pick in 1956.
Halbrook was the tallest professional basketball player in history until the early 1980s, but was well-known for his odd personality. Starting in college at Oregon State, coaches and teammates said he would go missing for "weeks" at a time, absences that would lead to him being kicked out of college and shuttled out of pro basketball.
Halbrook died of a heart attack in 1988, at 54 years old, while riding a city bus in Portland, Oregon.
1957: Oh Yeah, Jim Brown Played Basketball
The argument for greatest athlete of all time often boils down to Michael Jordan and legendary NFL running back Jim Brown.
Brown might have the upper hand because he's considered the greatest football player and greatest lacrosse player in history, but he also was a basketball standout at Syracuse.
Brown was drafted in the ninth round of the 1957 NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals but chose to go with a career in professional football that worked out pretty well. Then, he became a movie star. But that's another story.
1958: Frank Howard Goes From Power Forward to Power Hitter
Ohio State forward Frank Howard made the right decision by turning his back on the NBA despite being a fourth-round pick by the Philadelphia Warriors.
Howard played 16 seasons in the majors and was one of the great power hitters of his era. He was the 1960 National League Rookie of the Year, won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1963, led the American League in home runs (twice), and was a four-time All-Star.
1959: 'Roughhouse' Russo Wins Over Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Lakers boasted one of the most potent offensive duos of all time with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in the 1960s. That wouldn't have been possible without "Roughhouse" Rudy LaRusso, the 1959 No. 2 overall pick.
LaRusso was a monster on the boards for the Lakers, averaging over nine rebounds per game for his career.
In 1967, he even got a guest spot on "Giligan's Island" in an episode called "Bang! Bang! Bang!"
1960: 'Zeke From Cabin Creek'
Los Angeles Lakers guard Jerry West, the No. 2 overall pick in 1960, has some of the greatest nicknames of all time.
"Mr. Outside" for his long-distance shooting. "Mr. Clutch" for his ability to hit game-winning shots. "Zeke From Cabin Creek" in reference to the creek outside his childhood home. And, of course, "The Logo" for his silhouette being on the NBA logo.
One part of West's career that is kind of unbelievable was his record in the NBA Finals. He went 1-8, with six losses to the Boston Celtics and two to the New York Knicks.
1961: From Russia, With Rebounds
The other member of the frontcourt for the Philadelphia Warriors during Wilt Chamberlain's record 100-point game in 1962 was Tom Meschery, the first foreign-born All-Star in NBA history.
Meschery was born as Tomislav Nikolayevich Mescheryakov in Manchuria to Russian immigrants who fled during the Bolshevik Revolution.
As a child, Meschery spent time in an internment camp in Tokyo before settling in the Bay Area, and his family claimed to have been related to "War and Peace" author Leo Tolstoy.
1962: Nellie Could Play a Little Bit
Don Nelson, a third-round pick, had a pretty remarkable 14-year playing career and won five NBA titles with the Boston Celtics.
His real mark on the game would come as an NBA head coach, where his innovations are still seen in the game today, most notably with the point-forward position (see: Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki) and the high-scoring offenses in place today.
Nelson was a three-time NBA Coach of the Year, twice with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1983 and 1985, and with the Golden State Warriors in 1992.
1963: The Other Mel Gibson
Before the world knew the name Mel Gibson as an actor, writer and Academy Award-winning director, basketball fans knew Mel Gibson the player and coach.
Gibson, who was drafted in the second round (No. 16 overall) of the 1963 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, played one season for the Lakers before he became a longtime Division I head coach for Charleston Southern and UNC Wilmington, where he coached until 1986.
That was the year before the other Mel Gibson's 1987 film "Lethal Weapon" made him an action superstar.
1964: Connie Hawkins' Basketball Odyssey Was Wild
Connie Hawkins went undrafted in 1964 and endured one of the more unfair persecutions in the history of sports.
After being unfairly implicated in a point-shaving scandal at Iowa and blackballed from playing in college and every pro basketball league in America, he played for the Harlem Globetrotters for four years, sued the NBA for $6 million for blackballing him from the league for that time and settled for $1.4 million.
He played two seasons in the ABA before joining the Phoenix Suns in 1969 and going on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NBA.
1965: Two Seasons in NBA, Two Decades in MLB
Ron Reed was one of the greatest rebounders in the history of college basketball at Notre Dame, including a record 17.7 rebounds per game as a junior.
The Pistons drafted Reed in the third round (No. 20 overall), and he played two seasons in Detroit before informing the team he was going to play baseball.
He pitched 19 seasons in the majors, was an All-Star in 1968 and won a World Series in 1980. So maybe he made the right decision.
1966: Matt Goukas Follows Father's Footsteps
The NBA has a great legacy of fathers and sons, and No. 9 overall pick Matt Guokas and his father, Matt Guokas Sr., hold a unique place in that history.
They became the first father and son to win NBA titles. Matt Sr. won in 1947 with the Philadelphia Warriors and Matt, who became an NBA head coach, won a title in 1967, his rookie year with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967.
1967: Jimmy Walker's Legacy Lives on in Jalen Rose
Top pick Jimmy Walker's name and career would have otherwise been a footnote in NBA history if not for the exploits of his son, Jalen Rose, one of the stars of Michigan's Fab Five teams of the early 1990s and the No. 13 overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft.
Rose went on to play 13 seasons in the NBA. Sadly, the two never met in person before Walker died of lung cancer in 2007.
1968: Remember 'Hill Street Blues'?
The expansion Seattle SuperSonics selected UCLA star guard Mike Warren in the 14th round, but he never played in the NBA.
Instead, Warren, who won two NCAA championships playing for John Wooden and alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, embarked on a lengthy acting career, most notable for six seasons as Officer Bobby Hill on NBC's classic drama "Hill Street Blues" from 1981 to 1987.
He's also the father-in-law of actress Jessica Alba.
1969: Warriors Draft First Woman
The NBA later voided the pick, but the Golden State Warriors drafted Iowa high school basketball star Denise Long in the 13th round, which NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy labeled a "publicity stunt."
Before Title IX, Long didn't have options of playing in college and played one season in a women's league set up by the Warriors.
Long struggled in the full-court game, however, as women's basketball was played primarily on a half-court in its early days.
1970: Dino Meneghin's Three Decades of Pro Ball
Mexico's Manuel Raga (10th round, No. 167 overall) and Italy's Dino Meneghin (11th round, No. 182) became the first two international players drafted by the NBA in 1970.
But neither of them ever played a game in the league because their NBA teams couldn't afford the $35,000 fee to buy out their international contracts.
Meneghin still played an incredible 28 years of pro basketball, from 1966 until 1994, and was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
1971: NBA Sues Spencer Haywood and Loses
Hall of Famer Spencer Haywood was drafted in the second round by the Buffalo Braves at No. 30 overall despite already playing for another NBA team at the time, the Seattle SuperSonics.
Haywood started his pro career in the ABA before he was draft-eligible in the NBA in order to earn money, then hopped to the NBA after one season.
The NBA sued the Sonics and Haywood to try and make him play for the Braves and lost.
1972: Kresimir Cosic Says 'No Thanks' to NBA
Brigham Young star Kresimir Cosic could have brought international success to the NBA decades ahead of Drazen Petrovic.
Instead, he chose to return to Europe and his native Yugoslavia to pursue a pro career, competing in four Olympic games for his country and being named EuroBasket Most Valuable Player twice, in 1971 and 1975.
Cosic became just the second international player inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
1973: Dave Winfield Can't Stop Getting Drafted
Pro Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was a two-sport star for the University of Minnesota in basketball and baseball. In 1972, he led the Gophers to their first Big Ten basketball title in 53 years and was also named College World Series MVP.
In 1973, he was drafted by four teams in three different sports — the San Diego Padres (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Utah Stars (ABA) and the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) despite never playing college football.
Winfield chose baseball, made his major league debut on June 19, 1973, and never looked back, playing with six teams until 1995.
1974: 'The Iceman' Cometh With Buckets
The man with probably the best nickname in the history of pro basketball — George "The Iceman" Gervin — went in the third round (No. 40 overall) to the Phoenix Suns in the 1974 draft but never played a minute for the team.
He earned the nickname for his calm demeanor on the court and how little he used to sweat playing basketball.
Gervin originally played for the Virginia Squires in the ABA, then the San Antonio Spurs as they made the transition to the NBA.
1975: Soviet Union's Olympic Hero
Just like all of the great Russian athletes drafted into North American sports leagues at the time, Russian forward Alexander Belov never got to play in the NBA for the Utah Jazz, who picked him in the 10th round (No. 161) of the 1975 draft.
Belov, however, had a lasting impact on basketball in the United States. He hit the game-winning shot against Team USA in the gold medal game at the 1972 Olympics.
1976: Artis Gilmore Breaks the Bulls' Bank
The 1976 NBA draft was overshadowed by the 1976 ABA dispersal draft — a group as talented as most of the NBA draft classes, ever.
No player was more coveted in the dispersal draft than Kentucky Colonels center Artis Gilmore, who went first overall to the Chicago Bulls and got a whopping, three-year, $1.1 million contract.
Gilmore played five seasons for the Bulls, making four All-Star teams.
1977: The Best Athlete Available
No athlete in Olympic history did a better job of capitalizing on their gold medal than Bruce Jenner after winning the 1976 decathlon.
Jenner was in on a publicity stunt by Kansas City Kings general manager Joe Axelson, who picked Jenner in the seventh round of the 1977 NBA draft to mock the Kansas City Chiefs after the NFL team continually said it always drafted the "best available athlete."
Jenner had not played basketball since high school and was presented a jersey with number 8618 — the same number of points he produced during his Olympic bid. But he never played for the Kings and came out as a trans woman in 2015.
1978: Celtics Draft Larry Bird, Then Wait
The NBA had an obscure rule that allowed players to be drafted who were four years out of high school but still had college eligibility left.
In this case, Larry Bird was a junior at Indiana State and four years out of high school. So the Boston Celtics selected Bird in the first round with the sixth overall pick, despite Bird openly stating he was going to play his final year at Indiana State.
The Celtics ended up having to woo Bird for over a year in order to get him to come play for them, ultimately making him their highest-paid player with a five-year, $3.25 million contract.
Bird made his NBA rookie debut in 1979 and became one of the game's all-time greats.
1979: Nick Galis Becomes a Greek Hero
Seton Hall shooting guard Nick Galis, a New Jersey native, seemed destined for NBA success when he was drafted in the fourth round of the 1979 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics.
When an injury kept him from joining the team, he was cut by the Celtics. But Galis leaped at an obscure opportunity to play for Greek pro team Aris, which had interest in him because both of his parents were Greek immigrants.
Galis played 15 seasons in Greece, becoming a national hero. He was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.
1980: Mike Woodson's Career Comes Full Circle
An NBA record nine players from the 1980 NBA draft went on to become NBA head coaches — Kevin McHale, Mike Woodson, Larry Drew, Bill Hanzlik, Butch Carter, Terry Stotts, Kurt Rambis, Kiki Vandeweghe and Kenny Natt.
Woodson became the first person in NBA history to coach the team that drafted him when he took over as head coach of the New York Knicks in 2012.
1981: MLB, NBA Spar Over Danny Ainge
Danny Ainge was a 15th-round draft pick (No. 389 overall) of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977 and was still playing college basketball for BYU when he was called up to the majors to play for the Blue Jays in 1979.
He played 211 MLB games at second base, third base and center field over three seasons, hitting .220 (146 hits with two home runs in 665 at-bats), before being drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1981.
The Celtics bought out Ainge's major league contract to bring him into the fold, and he helped them win NBA titles in 1984 and 1986.
1982: Utah Gives Away Dominique Wilkins
The Atlanta Hawks were able to pull off one of the more one-sided draft-day trades in NBA history in 1982.
The Utah Jazz selected University of Georgia star Dominique Wilkins with the No. 3 overall pick with the knowledge he likely would refuse to play in Utah. Strapped for cash, the Jazz traded Wilkins to the Hawks for John Drew, Freeman Williams and $1 million.
Wilkins became a seven-time All-NBA pick and Hall of Famer while the Jazz weren't contenders until the mid-1990s.
1983: Worst Owner of All Time?
There's a short list for worst NBA owners of all time, but former Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien is definitely on it.
Stepien and the Cavaliers were awarded a "courtesy" No. 24 pick in the 1983 NBA draft by the league because Stepien had the habit of selling or trading away his first-round picks. It didn't help much as the Cavs selected point guard Stewart Granger out of Villanova.
Granger played one season (56 games) in Cleveland and was out of the league by 1987. After 1983, the NBA created a rule that banned teams from trading away all of their first-round picks in consecutive years.
1984: David Stern Makes NBA Draft Debut
The modern NBA draft as we know it should be credited to former NBA commissioner David Stern, who oversaw his first draft in 1984.
Stern made the move to have the draft televised, and his first draft as the commissioner may have been the greatest draft of all time.
Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton all were taken in the first 16 picks.
1985: From Conspiracy Theories to Mr. Webb, Top Floor Please
The biggest story happened before the 1985 draft when the Knicks won the lottery and the rights to take Patrick Ewing at No. 1. David Stern, who passed away in 2020, denied any wrongdoing, but conspiracy theories remain.
The most unexpected story happened with Anthony Jerome "Spud" Webb — a 5-foot-7 guard who was drafted in the fourth round (No. 87 overall) by the Detroit Pistons and became one the NBA's most unlikely stars.
Waived by the Pistons, he signed with the Atlanta Hawks and won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1986. Before that, Webb, a Dallas native, led Midland (Texas) College to the National Junior College Athletic Association national title in 1982, then played for Jim Valvano at North Carolina State, and was told his only real shot at playing pro basketball was with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Webb didn't listen. He ended up playing in the NBA for 12 seasons, with career averages of 9.9 points and 5.7 assists.
1986: Arvydas Sabonis Too Much to Pass Up
One of the great "what-if" players of all time is Arvydas Sabonis — a first-round pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1986 who didn't get to join the team until 1995, when he was in his early 30s and past his prime.
The buzz around Sabonis mainly centered around his battles with Bill Walton in international competition, and it was Walton who said Sabonis was like a "7-foot-3 Larry Bird" in his early and mid-20s.
He'd already torn both of his Achilles' tendons by the time he reached the NBA, but could still ball a little bit. He's the oldest member in the history of the NBA All-Rookie Team, which he made in 1996 at 32 years old, and played until he was 38.
1987: Sarunas Marciulionis Brings Euro Step to NBA
The player credited with becoming the first European to regularly make an impact on an NBA roster was Sarunas Marciulionis, a 6-foot-6 Lithuanian shooting guard who led the Soviet Union to the gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Marciulionis, picked in the sixth round of the 1987 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors, didn't join the team until the 1989-90 season, after the fall of communism.
1988: Rex Chapman Takes Road Less Traveled
The world knows Rex Chapman now more for his Twitter account than for his NBA exploits. He's distanced himself enough from his career that it's a surprise to many of his almost 1 million followers that he even ever played.
But Chapman could really ball, and the former No. 8 overall pick in the 1988 NBA draft was a high-flying guard who averaged 14.6 points and 2.7 assists in 12 NBA seasons, including appearances in a pair of slam-dunk contests.
1989: Shawn Kemp Plays Waiting Game
Concord (Indiana) High School's Shawn Kemp wandered the earth like Kane in Kung Fu for one year after graduation before being taken No. 17 overall in the 1989 NBA draft.
Kemp signed with the University of Kentucky but was declared academically ineligible before the season began, then left school in November 1988 after being accused of stealing gold chains from head coach Eddie Sutton's son, Sean Sutton.
He transferred to a junior college in Texas in January, but never played there, either. Once he got to the NBA, Kemp became a six-time NBA All-Star.
1990: Tragedy at Loyola Marymount
Tragic NBA draft fact right here. One of the more sad stories in sports history was the death of Loyola Marymount All-American Hank Gathers, who collapsed on the court during a game and died on March 4, 1990.
Gathers, 6-foot-7, was a power forward who liked to mix it up at the rim and likely would have gone in the top five picks although he would've had to transition more to a small forward role at the next level.
Gather's best friend and teammate, Bo Kimble, was picked in the lottery, by the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 8 overall.
1991: Before Shaq, There Was Stanley
LSU's Shaquille O'Neal was one of the most certain No. 1 overall picks in history in 1992, but one year before that, he wasn't even the top NBA prospect on his own college team.
That was another center, Stanley Roberts, a 7-footer who went neck-and-neck with Alonzo Mourning in the McDonald's All-American game.
O'Neal was able to learn and thrive in Roberts' shadow during their time together at LSU and became a star, while Roberts struggled in the NBA for eight seasons due to a variety of weight and substance abuse issues.
1992: No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 Finally Team Up
The first three picks in the 1992 draft were all looked at as surefire NBA stars — No. 1 Shaquille O'Neal (Orlando Magic), No. 2 Alonzo Mourning (Charlotte Hornets) and No. 3 Christian Laettner (Minnesota Timberwolves).
While Laettner didn't quite live up to his potential like the other two, in an interesting twist all three players ended up on the same roster one decade later, on the 2004-05 Miami Heat, which would be Laettner's last season in the NBA.
O'Neal and Mourning won an NBA title with the Heat in 2006.
1993: Listen, Gheorge Mhuresan Could Ball
Gheorge Muresan's parents were both of normal, average height, but a pituitary gland issue led to him growing to 7-foot-7 — and becoming the tallest player in NBA history.
The media may have tried to paint Muresan as a freak show, but his game told a much different story. The No. 30 overall pick in 1993 was named the NBA's Most Improved Player in 1996 after he averaged career highs of 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
He also starred in the 1998 film "My Giant" with Billy Crystal, and in Eminem's "My Name Is" video.
1994: New York's Best Quarterback (and Point Guard)
In a weird twist, Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward was picked in the 18th round of the 1994 MLB draft by the New York Yankees and the first round of the 1994 NBA draft by the New York Knicks — but not the 1994 NFL draft.
The former quarterback ended up playing 11 seasons in the NBA, with the majority of it on some pretty great Knicks teams. Ironically, both the New York Jets and New York Giants struggled during this time, leading New York tabloids to repeatedly call Ward "the best quarterback in New York."
1995: 'Big Country' Bombs Out of NBA
Oklahoma State center Bryant "Big Country" Reeves captured the imaginations of basketball fans all over the country when he led his team to the 1995 Final Four.
His crazy backstory, coming from Gans, Oklahoma (pop. 200) was Paul Bunyan-esque. Reeves was as good of a young NBA center as you could be for two seasons and the No. 6 overall pick was rewarded by the Vancouver Grizzlies with a six-year, $61.8 million contract.
His weight ballooned, his back fell apart, and he was out of the league after six seasons.
1996: Ben Wallace Becomes Unlikely Superstar
Ten players from the 1996 draft became All-Stars. Ben Wallace was undrafted in 1996 as a forward out of Virginia Union and also became a four-time All-Star.
Wallace went from NCAA Division II to four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA champion in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons.
Virginia Union produced another hard-nosed forward before Wallace — legendary NBA enforcer Charles Oakley, who was one of the first to recognize Wallace's talent when he was still in high school at Central in Hayneville, Alabama.
1997: Juco Phenom Stephen Jackson Gets His Shot
It's rare that a player is drafted directly out of a junior college — especially when that player never suited up for said junior college.
But that's what happened when Stephen Jackson was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 42 overall pick in 1997 out of Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas.
Jackson didn't play in the NBA until 2000, but lasted 14 seasons and won an NBA ring with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.
1998: What Happened to Korleone Young?
Plenty of NBA experts point to the 1998 NBA draft — and one player specifically — as the start of the movement toward high school players not being eligible for the draft.
That player was Korleone Young, a talented but immature forward who was picked by the Detroit Pistons in the second round and lasted one season, playing in just three games.
1999: The Oldest Rookie in NBA History
Argentine point guard Pablo Prigioni was eligible for the 1999 NBA draft but wasn't selected, which actually ended up being the fuel for one of the great, unknown stories of our time.
After playing in Europe for many years, in 2012, Prigioni became the oldest rookie in NBA history at 35 years old, kicking off a four-year run in the league that lasted until 2016.
2000: The Disappearing Seniors
The 2000 NBA draft was the last time that a college senior was taken No. 1 overall with Cincinnati's Kenyon Martin.
In that same time, a college senior hasn't even been selected No. 2 overall, although four juniors have gone in that spot with the latest being Victor Oladipo in 2013.
2001: Thanks a Lot, Benicio
Carlos Arroyo wasn't drafted but still made an NBA roster in 2001, catching on with the Toronto Raptors. That wasn't even the biggest news in his own family that year, which is pretty amazing.
It's because Arroyo's cousin, actor Benicio del Toro, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the crime epic "Traffic" the same year.
2002: Bulls Lose Point Guard of Future
Point guard Jay Williams electrified college basketball for three years at Duke University and was the No. 2 overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2002 NBA draft.
His rookie year was the only season he played in the NBA after a devastating motorcycle accident ended his career just weeks after his first season was over.
2003: Nick Collison Becomes Mr. Consistency
You aren't going to find many players with career averages of 5.9 points and 5.2 rebounds who have their jersey hanging in the rafters.
Nick Collison, the No. 12 overall pick by the Seattle SuperSonics, had his No. 4 jersey retired by the Oklahoma City Thunder in January 2019 after playing his entire 15-year career with the franchise.
2004: NBA Makes Run on Russians
There haven't been a lot of great Russian basketball players that made it big in the NBA. But things were looking up after the 2004 NBA draft, when four Russians were picked.
That included three consecutive picks in the first round, as Pavel Podkozlin (Utah Jazz), Victor Khryapa (New Jersey Nets) and Sergei Monia (Portland Trail Blazers) were taken at No. 21, 22 and 23, respectively.
The trio played a total of 175 games in the NBA combined.
2005: Robert Whaley Becomes Latest NAIA NBA Draft Pick
Some amazing players have been taken in the NBA draft out of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) schools — most notably Scottie Pippen (Central Arkansas) and Dennis Rodman (Southeastern Oklahoma State).
But no NAIA players have been taken since 2005, when Walsh University center Robert Whaley was taken in the second round at No. 51 overall by the Utah Jazz.
2006: Rules Change for Greg Oden
Because of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, 2006 was the first year high school players weren't eligible for the NBA draft — not that this would've stopped the Raptors from selecting a bust.
If high school players still had been eligible, the No. 1 overall pick likely would have been 2007 No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden out of Indianapolis Lawrence North High School.
Oden played 105 games in the NBA before injuries ended his career.
2007: Yi-ikes, What a Bad Pick
The mystery of No. 7 overall pick Yi Jianlian's actual age was a cloud that hung over the "Chinese Dirk Nowitzki" for most of his career.
The sad part of this was that we found out Yi had very little to do with what occurred. The Chinese government later admitted they were fudging when it came to the ages of elite athletes in order to get them more experience on the youth level.
In this case, Yi was born in 1984, but the Chinese government said he was born in 1987.
2008: Sonics Never Get No. 1
This was the final year the Seattle SuperSonics picked in the NBA draft, ending a run dating back to their first picks in 1967.
While the Sonics never had a No. 1 overall pick, they knocked it out of the park the two times they had the No. 2 pick, taking Hall of Famer Gary Payton in 1990 and future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant in 2007.
2009: Brandon Jennings Goes for the Money
In the face of the NBA's decision to disallow high school players to go directly to the NBA — the "19-year-old" rule — high school star Brandon Jennings made the unique decision to go play in Europe in 2008 instead of going to college.
It was a path not many others would ever take, but Jennings still went No. 10 overall to the Milwaukee Bucks and played nine seasons in the NBA.
2010: Two Stars, Two Gruesome Injuries
The players taken back-to-back at the No. 9 and 10 picks were Gordon Hayward and Paul George — players who would experience stunning similar catastrophic (and grotesque) lower-body injuries in the prime of their careers.
If you have the stomach to watch what they went through, George snapped his leg playing for Team USA in 2014 and Hayward in his Boston Celtics debut in 2017.
They both recovered and are going strong again.
2011: NBA's 'Mr. Irrelevant' Becomes Star
The NFL draft has Mr. Irrelevant — the tag given to the last player selected. The NBA draft has no such moniker for the last player taken.
Instead, some ballers have been chosen with that pick — Los Angeles Lakers "Showtime" defensive ace Michael Cooper, late New Jersey Nets star Drazen Petrovic and 2011 final pick Isaiah Thomas, a two-time All-Star and All-NBA pick in 2017.
2012: Father Time Can't Catch Bernard James
Father Time spares no one. Except maybe Bernard James.
James became the oldest player drafted in NBA history when he was taken by the Dallas Mavericks with the No. 33 overall pick in the second round — at 27 years old.
How'd it happen? James had a massive growth spurt after he enrolled in the Air Force after high school, shooting up to 6-foot-10.
2013: 'Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!' Is Right
One of the great things about YouTube — when it comes to sports — is the ability for sports fans to go back and watch old draft moments or, in some cases, the entire draft.
The moment where the Cavaliers drafted UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett, we get the now-famous reaction of former ESPN commentator and "Book of Basketball" author Bill Simmons: "Woah! Woah! Woah! Woah!"
Bennett was out of the league in 2017.
2014: Worst NBA Draft Class Ever?
The hype headed into the 2014 NBA draft was enormous, with experts in awe of the talent about to flood the NBA.
Six years later, we can say with certainty that this was a historically bad draft. Of all the players selected in the first round, just one, 76ers center Joel Embiid, has made an All-Star team.
2015: A Wasteland
The last 15 picks were a wasteland hitherto unseen in the history of the two-round NBA draft. Of those picks, just three players have ever been on an NBA roster.
The last 12 picks were a total bloodbath, as 11 of those players never made it to the NBA, with the exception of No. 56 overall pick Branden Dawson out of Michigan State.
2016: Diversity Rules the Day
This was the most diverse draft in the history of the NBA — 28 countries outside of the USA had players selected. Which is just an awesome, underlining fact that the NBA's global initiatives that began in the 1990s really worked.
Some of the highlights were the most players from France (five), the first Egyptian since 1990 (Abdel Nader) and the first Austrian (Jakob Poeltl).
2017: LaVar Ball Won't Shut Up
One individual seemed to dominate almost all discussion headed into the 2017 NBA draft, but it wasn't a player.
LaVar Ball, the father of eventual No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball, was omnipresent before the draft, trash-talking other picks, the children of current NBA players and even Michael Jordan himself.
LaVar said he could beat Jordan 1-on-1.
2018: Suns Get First No. 1 Overall Pick in 50 Years
The Phoenix Suns had the No. 1 draft pick for the first time in franchise history in 2018 — also their 50-year anniversary. They chose University of Arizona center DeAndre Ayton.
The six remaining teams that never have had a No. 1 pick are the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies.
2019: Rui Hachimura Breaks New Ground
This one's not weird. It's just very cool.
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura became the first Japanese-born player selected in the first round of the NBA draft when he was taken by the Washington Wizards at No. 9 overall.
Hachimura was a star for Meisei High in Japan and made a name for himself at the Jordan Brand Classic in 2015.
Related: Grading Every No. 1 Overall NBA Pick