The craziest draft in NBA history

The craziest draft in NBA history

The NBA draft process is a science to itself. There are advanced analytics on all the stats, and teams send private investigators to talk to as many people as possible to create a profile of the player. Alongside standard measurements, you get at the combine and medical exams, teams, have internal metrics – neck length and body width (Houston Rockets). Any edge possible to select a potential diamond in the rough.

We’re so used to the NBA and teams being a well oiled high-tech machine that some of the stories from NBA past seem impossible. None so as the 1977 NBA draft. This was the first draft since the Spurs, Nets, Pacers, and Nuggets joined the NBA after the merger with the ABA. There were eight rounds, and a total of 170 players were selected. After a while, people got creative.

Lusia Harris

With the 137th overall pick, the New Orleans Jazz selected Lusia Harris, Delta State University. The San Francisco Warriors drafted Denise Long in the 1969 Draft, but the league voided the pick, so Harris was the first officially selected woman in NBA history. She declined to try out for the Jazz, so she never played in the league. 

Nine months later, it became obvious why. At least part of the decision had to do with the fact Harris was pregnant at the time. It’s possible she would’ve attended the tryouts if not pregnant, and we could’ve had a woman player in 1977! Talk about being the most progressive league in the United States.

Caitlin Jenner

Yep, that Caitlin Jenner. With the 139th pick, two picks after Lusia Harris, the Kansas City Kings selected Bruce Jenner. Jenner had just won the gold medal for decathlon in the Montreal 1976 Olympics, proving to be the best overall athlete in the world. The selection was partly to poke fun at the Kansas City Chiefs, who would often select the “best athlete available” and partly as a PR stunt. The Kings gave Jenner a jersey with 8618 as his number – the score he achieved in the decathlon in Montreal. Jenner’s basketball career culminated with dunking an alley up with the Village People.

Notable picks

We’re using the word “notable” liberally here. Eight rounds is a lot, and teams struggled to find enough prospects. The Jenner pick illustrates the NBA was struggling to get media attention and did all kinds of stunts to get some attention. The Lakers tried to draft, and this is real Scooby-Doo. For some reason, the league rejected the pick. They allegedly also attempted to draft a wooden chair, it got the same treatment as Scooby-Doo. Not to get outshined by their rivals, the Celtics drafted a water boy.

Most of the players selected only got to try out and never played an NBA game in their life. The Draft was cut to only two rounds in 1989, and any undrafted player got the chance to try out for any team. Before that, we had Scooby Doo and water boys.