In today’s NBA, an unusual draft pick usually means a team takes a player too early in the draft, but many years ago the NBA draft was a lot longer and a heck of a lot crazier. Very, very rarely did a player picked past the second round make the team, so teams often used the later rounds for publicity stunts. Here are the top four – technically five — weirdest NBA draft picks ever.
1.) Carl Lewis, Chicago Bulls, 208th pick in the 10th round of the 1984 NBA draft. No, this is not some random bench player with the same name as the track legend. Lewis had never picked up a basketball in his life, but the Bulls figured that if Lewis ever decided to change his mind about being an Olympic runner, using a worthless 10th round pick on Lewis would make a low-risk, huge reward gamble.
2.) Bubba Smith, Washington Bullets, 284th pick in the 11th round of the 1967 NBA draft. At 6-feet, 8-inches and weighing in at over 280 pounds, Smith was the most highly touted college football prospect in 1967. What makes this draft pick weirder is why a team would think Smith would suddenly decide to play basketball in a then fledging league after he was taken 1st in the NFL draft that year.
3.) Dave Winfield, Atlanta Hawks, 79th pick in the 5th round of the 1973 draft. Dave might be the weirdest draft pick of any of the major sports leagues, because he was drafted in four simultaneous drafts – the NFL, NBA, MLB and American Basketball Association. While Winfield never played professional basketball, he did play several seasons of professional baseball, even making it to the World Series in 1981.
4.) Lusia Harris-Stewart, New Orleans Jazz, 137th round pick in the 7th round of the 1977 NBA draft. Harris was neither a player’s girlfriend nor a coach’s wife; Harris was one of the pioneers of women’s basketball. For instance, Harris scored the first ever point in a woman’s Olympic basketball game. Unlike most other odd draft picks, Harris had immense basketball talent — she was drafted ahead of 33 male players. Harris never tried out for an NBA team, but part of that was due to her pregnancy at the time
Honorable mention. Even odder than the Harris pick is that Harris was not the first female player drafted by an NBA team. In 1969, the San Francisco Warriors – currently the Golden State Warriors – drafted high school sensation Denise Long in the 13th round. However, because Long was still in high school when she was drafted, the NBA commissioner voided the pick, which eliminated Long from NBA record books.