The 72nd NBA Draft takes place tomorrow and the Phoenix Suns have the top pick for the first time in franchise history. With the draft having always been an important time for teams to hopefully revitalize their franchises, let’s take a look back at the past careers that former No. 1 overall picks have had.
The two who never played in the NBA
Clifton McNeeley was the first player ever selected in the NBA (then known as the BAA) Draft by the Pittsburgh Ironmen in 1947. Just like his NFL counterpart, McNeeley never played in the NBA. He had no interest in playing for the team and Pittsburgh ended up folding before the season started.
In the 1951 NBA Draft, the Baltimore Bullets selected Gene Melchiorre with the No. 1 pick. However, he never played in the league as Melchiorre was barred for life from the league due to a point-shaving scandal he admitted to being involved in during his college years at Bradley.
The 71 players to have been selected with the 1st pick have made a combined 257 All-Star appearances between them. Out of the 71 No. 1 picks, 27 were never All-Stars, while 44 were at least once. Below is a pie chart showing how many times each of those 44 was an All-Star.
The first player taken with the top pick to be an All-Star was Ray Felix, who did so his rookie season in 1953-54.
David Thompson is the only No. 1 pick to be an NBA All-Star (x4) and an ABA All-Star (x1). For the above pie chart, I did not count his ABA All-Star appearance.
Players selected 1st overall with the at least 10 All-Star appearances
|Player||All-Star App||Career Length|
|Magic Johnson||12||1979-91, 95-96|
Out of the 71 players taken with the top pick, 30 made at least one of the NBA’s three All-NBA teams. It is important to note that the All-NBA Third Team was not added until the 1988-89 season.
Elgin Baylor was the first No. 1 pick to make an All-NBA Team (and All-NBA First Team) in 1958-59, his rookie season. Oscar Robertson was the first to make the All-NBA Second Team in 1969-70. James Worthy and David Robinson were the first to make the All-NBA Third Team in 1989-90.
David Thompson is the only No. 1 pick to make an All-NBA Team (x2) and an All-ABA Team (x1). For the above pie chart, I did not count his All-ABA Team appearance.
Andrew Bogut is the only No. 1 overall pick to make an All-NBA Team but never be an All-Star.
Most All-NBA appearances by 1st overall picks
|Player||All-NBA Teams||First Team||Second Team||Third Team|
|Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||15||10||5||Started his last season|
|Oscar Robertson||11||9||2||Did not exist|
|Elgin Baylor||10||10||0||Did not exist|
LeBron James has the most All-NBA First Teams by a No. 1 pick. Patrick Ewing (6) has the most All-NBA Second Team appearances. Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson have the most All-NBA Third Teams.
ROY, DPOY, Sixth Man and MIP
Since the 1952-53 season, the NBA has given out the Rookie of the Year (ROY) to the player deemed the best rookie. Out of the 65* players drafted No. 1 overall, 22 (33.84%) have won the ROY award.
*Does not the first five No. 1 overall picks who played before the award started, as well as Ben Simmons since he is a finalist for the 2017-18 ROY Award.
|David Thompson||1975-76 (ABA)|
Starting in the 1982-83 season, the NBA has given out the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) and the Sixth Man of the Year Awards. In 1985-86, they started giving out the award for Most Improved Player (MIP). Since the inception of these three awards, only six No. 1 overall picks have won one of them.
The NBA MVP award was first given out in the 1955-56 season. Oscar Robertson was the first No. 1 overall pick to win the award in 1963-64. In total, only 10 top picks have won the award.
*LeBron is one of three finalists for MVP this year and has a chance to win his fifth.
|Player||MVP (Years Won)|
|Kareem Abdul Jabbar||6 (1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1979-80)|
|LeBron James*||4 (2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13)|
|Magic Johnson||3 (1986-87, 1988-89, 1989-90)|
|Tim Duncan||2 (2001-02, 2002-03)|
|Oscar Robertson||1 (1963-64)|
|Bill Walton||1 (1977-78)|
|Hakeem Olajuwon||1 (1993-94)|
|Shaquille O’Neal||1 (1999-00)|
|Allen Iverson||1 (2000-01)|
|Derrick Rose||1 (2010-11)|
Championships and Finals MVP
Out of the 71 players taken with the first pick in the NBA draft, 21* (29.57%) of them have won wither an NBA Championship or an ABA Championship*.
*Elgin Baylor played nine games in the 1971-72 season before retiring due to nagging knee problems which had limited him to only two games the prior season. That year the Lakers finally broke through and won the NBA championship, but Baylor was not an active player on the roster. The team did give him a ring but he is not listed as an NBA Champion on Pro-Basketball Reference so I did not count him.
*Art Heyman won an ABA Championship in 1967-68 with the Pittsburgh Pipers
No. 1 overall picks with multiple NBA Championships
|Kareem Abdul Jabbar||6||Lakers (5), Bucks (1)|
|Magic Johnson||5||Lakers (5)|
|Tim Duncan||5||Spurs (5)|
|Shaquille O’Neal||4||Lakers (3), Heat (1)|
|James Worthy||3||Lakers (3)|
|LeBron James||3||Heat (2), Cavs (1)|
|Bill Walton||2||Trail Blazers (1), Celtics (1)|
|Mychal Thompson||2||Lakers (2)|
|Mark Aguirre||2||Pistons (2)|
|Hakeem Olajuwon||2||Rockets (2)|
|David Robinson||2||Spurs (2)|
Of course, the group of players gets even smaller when just looking who has won an NBA Finals MVP. Only eight players taken with the first overall pick have won the award.
|Player||Number of Finals MVPs|
|Kareem Abdul Jabbar||2|
Hall of Fame
17 of the players who have been selected with the first pick in the NBA Draft have been enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
|Player||Year Drafted||Year Inducted|
*Retired No. 1 picks not yet eligible for HOF: Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Kenyon Martin, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Oden
*No. 1 picks still playing in NBA: LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Anthony Bennet (G-League), Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz
*No. 1 picks playing overseas: Andrew Bogut
Info and Notes:
Featured Image: “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1974” by Frank Bryan is a public domain image
https://www.basketball-reference.com/draft/ (used to take note of honors for each player taken with the 1st pick)
https://www.basketball-reference.com/awards/hof.html (Find when players were inducted into Hall of Fame)
All charts and tables made using Google Spreadsheet