NBA Draft: Who selects the No. 1 pick and from where?

The 72nd NBA Draft is taking place on Thursday and for the first time in franchise history, the Phoenix Suns will select the top pick in the draft, assuming they don’t trade it away. However, what does history have to say about who most often selects the first overall pick and from where?

Which teams have most often had the No. 1 pick?

The Cleveland Cavaliers have selected the top pick in the NBA draft six times, with four of those coming since 2000 (LeBron James in 2003, Kyrie Irving in 2011, Anthony Bennett in 2013 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014).

Teams to never select the No. 1 pick: Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz


Number of times each team selected the No. 1 overall pick

*The Pittsburgh Ironmen (1946-47), Providence Steam Rollers (1946-49) and Baltimore Bullets (1947-54) are all defunct NBA franchises.

*The Hawks made one of their No. 1 selections as Milwaukee (1952) and another as St. Louis (1955).

*The Kings made one of their No. 1 selections as the Rochester Royals (1956) and three as the Cincinnati Royals (1957, 59 and 60).

*The Wizards made one of their No. 1 selections as the Chicago Packers (1961) and one as the Chicago Zephyrs (1962).

*The Lakers made their No. 1 selection as Minneapolis (1958).

*The Nets made one of their No. 1 selections as New Jersey (1990, 2000).

*The Pelicans made their No. 1 selection as the New Orleans Hornets (2012).

*The Rockets made one of their No. 1 selections as the San Deigo (1968).

*The Warriors made one of their No. 1 selections as San Franscico (1965).

What colleges have produced the most No. 1 picks?

Over the last 71 NBA drafts, there have been 19 colleges that have had at least two players selected with the No. 1 overall pick. Duke and Kentucky both led the pack with three players.

Duke’s three players to be taken with the top pick are Art Heyman (1963), Elton Brand (1999) and Kyrie Irving (2011). Kentucky’s three players are John Wall (2010), Anthony Davis (2012) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015).

Colleges with at least two players taken

Schools to have one player taken No. 1 include: Bowling Green, Bradley, Davidson, DePaul, Furman, Illinois State, Long Island University, Louisville, Loyola University of Chicago, Marshall, Memphis, Michigan State, Minnesota, Navy, NC State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, University of the Pacific, Providence, Seattle University, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington

Where are No. 1 picks born?

Out of the 71 players that have been selected No. 1 in the NBA draft, 59 (83.09%) of them were born in the United States. If you include territories, it is 60 since Tim Duncan was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

New York and Illinois have produced 14 of those 59 (23.72%) top picks from America. 24 of the 50 states (48%) have never produced a player who was selected with the top pick in the NBA draft.


There have also been 12 players who were not born in the United States who were taken with the No. 1 overall pick.


World Map.png

Australia: Andrew Bogut (2005), Kyrie Irving (2011), Ben Simmons (2016)

Canada: Anthony Bennett (2013), Andrew Wiggins (2014)

Nigeria: Hakeem Olajuwon (1984), Michael Olowokandi (1998)

Bahamas: Mychal Thompson (1978)

China: Yao Ming (2002)

Italy: Andrea Bargnani (2006)

Jamacia: Patrick Ewing (1985)

US Virgin Islands: Tim Duncan (1997)

Cities who have produced multiple No. 1 overall picks

There are a few cities in the United States and across the world that have produced multiple No. 1 overall picks. They, along with the players from them, are listed in the table below.

City State/Country Player (Year)
Chicago Illinois Cazzie Russell (1966), LaRue Martin (1972), Mark Aguirre (1981), Derrick Rose (2008), Anthony Davis (2012)
New York New York Ray Felix (1953), Si Green (1956), Art Heyman (1963), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1969)
Melbourne Australia Andrew Bogut (2005), Kyrie Irving (2011), Ben Simmons (2016)
Washington D.C.  United States Elgin Baylor (1958), Fred Hetzel (1965), Austin Carr (1971)
Toronto Canada Anthony Bennett (2013), Andrew Wiggins (2014)
Lagos Nigeria Hakeem Olajuwon (1984), Michael Olowokandi (1998)
Akron Ohio Chuck Share (1950), LeBron James (2003)
Buffalo New York Bob Lanier (1970), Greg Oden (2007)

Info and sources:

Featured Image: “DSC04904” by Brent Soderberg is licensed under CC BY-2.0 (Use to note team and college player was drafted from, clicked on each player to find place of birth) *If the place of birth was not listed I Googled the player to find it.

Map of player’s place of birth made using

All other graphs and tables made using Google Spreadsheet in Google Docs


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