Suns and Bucks played Kareem with a coin

For almost two decades, a coin toss decided the No. 1 in the NBA draft. The first chosen by lottery was Ewing.

The draft has spent years trying to distribute talent among all NBA franchises and fighting against the shadow of tanking. It is about those who are in the worst sporting situation taking the best of the university (and international) generation ... but also that teams without great aspirations do not abandon themselves to defeats to gain more options to win that best young talent . As it is an impossible mission, at least it is tried that tanking is practiced as little as possible ... and in the most disguised way.

Since 1990, the election order follows the weighted lottery format, a pattern that has undergone several reforms. To modulate tanking, the first four places of that election are now drawn on a weighted basis. The worst three of the regular season have a 14% chance of taking number 1 and the fourth, 12.5%. Before this last modification, the first three places were raffled and the worst had a 25% chance of taking number one. The penultimate, 19.9% and the third, 14% .

The lottery procedure is as follows: 14 ping-pong balls (representing the 14 teams out of the playoffs) are inserted into a pot, numbered 1 through 14, to create 1,001 possible combinations. Of these 1,001 combinations, each franchise has a certain amount (a series of determined numbers) according to its position at the end of the course. The last three, for example, have 140 numbers of those 1,001 options, that is, a 14% (13.9%) chance of getting the number 1. While the fourteen only has a 0.5% of going out with the first position.

After introducing the 14 balls, four are drawn, from which combination the winner of the first pick (choice) comes out. The same for 2, 3 and 4. The following are already in order according to the record of victories achieved in the regular phase. The teams that were left out of the lottery establish that order according to their win-loss balance: the one with the best ratio will be the last to be chosen. Any ties prior to the lottery are broken through a draw.

From the territorial pick to the coin to the air

But it was not always like that, of course. From 1947 to 1965, the teams chose directly in the reverse order of the previous season's classification, with the transcendental figure of the territorial pick: as the NBA was still in its infancy and the universities generated sensations at the local level, it was tried that those stars continue in their area of influence, giving preference to franchises close to their universities. Those who wanted to, could use that territorial pick as if it were the first round of the draft.

Beginning in 1985 (Patrick Ewing was the first number 1 with this system) the lottery was used. First it was a pure draw among all those not qualified for the playoffs. In 1987, only the first three positions were drawn and the rest were distributed in reverse order of victories. In this way, the worst team of the previous season secured a top 4: either it was one of the three chosen or it was the first of the rest, those who were placed according to classification. Then, in 1990, the weighted lottery and options finally arrived, among the teams that had not reached the playoffs, according to position from the previous season.

And between 1966 and 1984? Well, in those almost two decades, the currency system was used. It's that simple and rudimentary: two teams, the worst from each Conference (formerly Division), went to that draw and the first two places were shared. As of pick 3, the order system was reversed to the classification. This meant that the worst two did not always have access to the top 2: a team could be the second worst in a Conference and stay out even if they had more losses than the worst in the other Conference. The first coin in the air, in 1966, was in the draft number 20 in NBA history, with ten franchises and the Knicks as winners against the Detroit Pistons: number 1 was Cazzie Russell and number two, Dave Bing.

This currency system, the coin flip), decided the fate of some of the best players ever:

1969: KAREEM COULD PLAY IN THE SUNS: For many, at least until the rise of LeBron James, the only one who could argue for the throne with Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still Lew Alcindor when he came to the NBA, after doing history at UCLA and in the 1969 draft. The coin toss was between the Phoenix Suns, a franchise that was only one year old, and the Milwaukee Bucks. They won those of Wisconsin, who were champions in 1971 with Kareem as MVP of the Regular Season and the Finals. Four years later, he went to the Lakers. The Suns stayed at No. 2 with Neal Walk, who had a mediocre career and ended up playing in Europe.

1974: THE CURRENCY THAT THE BLAZERMANIA ALLOWED: The only player who has been at the level of Kareem in the NCAA also came out of UCLA. Bill Walton was No. 1 in the draft in 1974 and was aiming for a legendary NBA career until injuries stopped him cold. With the Blazers he won the only title in the franchise, in 1977, the year of blazermania. He was MVP of the Finals and a year later, of the Regular Season, just before his ordeal with physical problems began. The Blazers won the coin toss from the Sixers, who were left with Marvin Barnes, one of the toughest players in history, with enormous talent but a clarifying nickname: bad news. Barnes, marked by drug addiction, chose to go to the ABA and did not make it to the NBA until 1976, with the Pistons.

1978: THE HISTORICAL 1 OF MYCHAL THOMPSON. Klay Thompson's father, Mychal, was born in the Bahamas. And he was No. 1 in the draft in 1978, the first chosen in that position who had not been born in the United States. The right to be on the coin was owned by the Indiana Pacers and the New Jersey Nets. The latter sold their pick to the Kansas City Kings and the Pacers, after taking the 1, traded it to the Blazers. So it was the Oregonians who chose Mychal Thompson, who later became a major player in the Showtime Lakers (champion in 1987 and 1988). The Kings chose Phil Ford.

1979: THE MAGIC REACHES THE… REBOUND: The year of Magic Johnson. The Lakers took one of the greats in history after beating the Chicago Bulls in the coin, who stayed with David Greenwood. It was an incredible missed chance for the New Orleans Jazz, who had the right to contest the 1 with the Bulls (then the Jazz from the East and the Bulls from the West) but they had traded their first round three years earlier, in 1976. It was like compensation to the Lakers, in times when free agency did not exist as such, to sign Gail Goodrich, an excellent point guard (champion in 1972) but a veteran player who had already played his best years in basketball.

1981: THE BAD BOYS ARRIVED FROM A NUMBER 2: Dallas Mavericks, newcomer to the NBA (in 1980) won the coin from Detroit Pistons. The Texans took Mark Aguirre and the Pistons, Isiah Thomas, one of the best players in history and the benchmark of the Bad Boys, the Detroit team that was champions in 1989 and 1990. The funny thing is that in those two titles was also Aguirre, who left in 1989 to Detrois after being three-time all-star with the Mavs.

1982: THE LAKERS TAKE THE PRIZE AGAIN: Again without a choice of theirs (they came from being champions, too), the Lakers took the number 1 and chose James Worthy. The Clippers took Terry Cummings with the 2, ahead of Dominique Wilkins. The Lakers, despite being champions, could choose with 1 because they had the Cleveland Cavaliers pick for two years. With Ralph Sampson hovering, then No. 1 in 1983, the Lakers were planning a very thunderous operation: getting another top 3 pick in a three-way operation, sending Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Knicks and picking Ralph Sampson (a 2.24 who later formed the twin towers with Hakeem Olajuwon, in Houston) and James Worthy. Finally, Sampson chose to play one more year at the University of Virginia and the Lakers limited themselves to making use of their number 1 to take Worthy, one of the best forwards ever and MVP of the Finals in 1988.

1984: OLAJUWON, BOWIE… AND MICHAEL JORDAN. Before one of the best draft ever, the Rockets beat the Blazers (who had the pick thanks to an operation with the Pacers) and stayed with number 1. You know: they took Hakeem Olajuwon, idol in the University of Houston and one of the best centers of all time (champion in 1994 and 1995). And the Blazers opted for Sam Bowie, an interior marked by injuries and because he was chosen ahead of Michael Jordan, who went to the Chicago Bulls with the number 3. But if the Blazers had won the coin, Jordan would have played. In Houston. The Blazers wanted a center because they already had Clyde Drexler on the outside, so with 1 they would have taken Olajuwon. For the Rockets, the first very clear option was Olajuwon but the second was not Bowie since they did not think about positions but about talent: had the legendary Nigerian center not already been within reach, they would have selected Michael Jordan with the number 2.

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