Whereabouts Of NBA Draft’s No. 1 Overall Selections - Part I: 1947-1980


Having the No. 1 overall pick can be a blessing or a curse. For the most part, that pick turns out to be the cornerstone of your franchise (whether your franchise is a perpetual winner is up to chance). But many No. 1 picks, for whatever reason, never pan out. It’s the inexact science of the draft. Just like we did with the NFL’s No. 1 overall picks, we give you the whereabouts of the NBA’s No. 1 overall picks.

Editor’s note: The drafts from 1947 to 1949 are from the Basketball Association of America (BAA). That later became the National Association of Basketball (NBA).

1947: Clifton McNeely, Texas Wesleyan (Pittsburgh Ironmen)
How’s this for a bad draft pick? McNeely never played a game of professional basketball. Despite leading the nation in scoring in 1947, Clifton opted to coach high school basketball (the pay was probably better). He coached for 13 years at Pampa High School in Texas and over a stretch of seven seasons won four state championships. Afterward he became a school administrator until his retirement in 1985. He passed away Dec. 26, 2003, at the age of 84.

1948: Andy Tonkovich, Marshall (Providence Steamrollers)
Tonkovich played just one season with the Steamrollers and averaged a measly two points a game. He soon disappeared. He appeared in the papers just one time after his career, in 1973 when he was inducted into the NAIA Basketball Hall of Fame (the blurb that mentions the induction was all of 43 words). Tonkovich died on Sept. 2, 2006, at the age of 83.

1949: Howie Shannon, Kansas State (Providence Steamrollers)
Providence was apparently steamrolling over no one, but their second consecutive No. 1 pick was slightly better than the first. In Shannon’s one season, he averaged 13 points (leading all rookies) and two assists a night. The team folded in 1949 and Shannon went to Boston to play one more season of professional basketball. Shannon eventually became the Virginia Tech basketball coach from 1964-71. In 1967, he helped the Hokies become the first team from Virginia to reach the Elite Eight. He passed away in 1995 at the age of 73.

1950: Charlie Share, Bowling Green (Boston Celtics)
New head coach Red Auerbach had a choice between Share and Holy Cross point guard Bob Cousy. He took Share as the first draft choice in NBA history. (“We need a big man,” Auerbach said. “Little men are a dime a dozen”). The 6-foot-11 Share never played a game with the Celtics, but played nine decent seasons in the NBA with Fort Wayne, Milwaukee/St. Louis and Minneapolis. He even won a title with the St. Louis Hawks in 1958. The 83-year old currently resides in St. Louis.

1951: Gene Melchiorre, Bradley (Baltimore Bullets)
Melchiorre admitted to being involved in the 1951 point-shaving scandal that rocked college basketball. As a result of his admission, the NBA president banned him from the league for life, but not before he had already been selected No. 1 overall (ouch). Melchiorre went on to work a variety of jobs from the post office to insurance, appliance and women’s wear sales and finally opened his own trucking firm. As of 2003, he was living in the northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park. He was most recently in the news last July when Bradley president Joanne Glasser announced his jersey would not be retired, a stand the university has held for quite some time.

1952: Mark Workman, West Virginia (Milwaukee Hawks)
Workman played just two seasons in the NBA, one with Philadelphia and one with Baltimore. In those two years, he averaged just five points and 15 minutes a game. Sadly, Workman passed away at the age of 53 on Dec. 21, 1983 due to an illness.

1953: Ray Felix, Long Island (Baltimore Bullets)
The 6-foot-11 Felix became the NBA’s first dominant black center, taking home the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and becoming just the second black player to be named an All-Star. He played nine seasons in the NBA. Afterward he spend most of his life working in the New York City Parks Department and was a supervisor at the Harlem Men’s Shelter for the homeless, when he suffered a heart attack and passed away on July 28, 1991, at the age of 60.

1954: Frank Selvy, Furman (Baltimore Bullets)
Selvy played nine NBA seasons, most with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers. His most famous moment came in Game Seven of the ’62 NBA Finals against the Celtics. After helping tie up the game, Selvy had an open 12-footer to seal the title. He missed, the game went to overtime and Boston eventually won. Selvy went on to work in sales at a paper company for 25 years. Today he currently resides in Western South Carolina, retired, and playing golf as often as possible.

1955: Dick Ricketts, Duquesne (Milwaukee Hawks)
Ricketts played just three seasons in the NBA with St. Louis, Rochester and Cincinnati, where he averaged just nine points and six rebounds a night. He also pitched one season in the Major Leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals. He appeared in 12 games and compiled a 1-6 record with a 5.82 ERA. He was manager of industrial relations for Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester when he passed away of leukemia at the age of 55 on March 6, 1988.

1956: Sihugo Green, Duquesne (Rochester Royals)
Green’s biggest claim to fame is that he was taken ahead of Bill Russell and that he and Ricketts are the only teammates to be drafted No. 1 overall in consecutive years. Green scored 4,636 points over nine seasons and earned a title with Boston in 1966. Green eventually returned to Pittsburgh after his playing career and was the vice president of Associated Linen Supply Company at the time of his death on Oct. 4, 1980, at the age of 47. He died of cancer.

1957: Rod Hundley, West Virginia (Cincinnati Royals)
Bad knees ended “Hod Rod” Hundley’s professional career after just six seasons. In that time he amassed over 3,600 points, 1,400 rebounds and 1,400 assists. After his career, Hundley went into broadcasting, where he eventually became the voice of the Utah Jazz from 1974-2009. Today he currently resides in Salt Lake City, UT, runs basketball clinics across the country and will do spot color commentary for Lakers radio broadcasts.

1958: Elgin Baylor, Seattle (Minneapolis Lakers)
Baylor became the first future Hall of Famer to be drafted No. 1 overall in the draft. He spent all 13 of his Hall of Fame season with the Lakers organization. He coached some after his playing career and when that didn’t work, he eventually became the Los Angeles Clippers’ vice president of basketball operation from 1986-2008, an astonishing 22 years which included all of two winning seasons. Last February he filed a lawsuit against the Clippers claiming he had been underpaid and was fired for his age and race, ignoring the fact his teams had just two winning seasons in 22 years. He currently resides in the Los Angeles area.

1959: Bob Boozer, Kansas State (Cincinnati Royals)
Boozer didn’t play his first season because he wanted to remain eligible for the 1960 Summer Olympics, a move that paid off when the team won gold. Afterward Boozer played 11 seasons in the NBA and recorded over 12,900 points and 7,100 rebounds. Boozer went to work for Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. for 27 years before retiring. In 2008 he was appointed to the Nebraska Parole Board to work with wayward youth and his term ends in 2012. He currently resides in Omaha, NE, and was recently inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the 1960 gold-winning team.

1960: Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati (Cincinnati Royals)
Robertson’s Hall of Fame career spanned 14 seasons and included 12 All-Star appearances, nine first team All-NBA selections and an NBA championship. He also helped spearhead the Oscar Robinson Suit, an anti-trust suit against the NBA that eventually led to more free agency and higher salaries. Not too long after retirement and some work in broadcasting, the “Big O” founded the company Orchem, which has evolved into a chemical company connected with the food and beverage processing industry. He is still the president/CEO of the company and resides in Cincinnati, OH.

1961: Walt Bellamy, Indiana (Chicago Packers)
Bellamy played for 14 seasons in the NBA and scored over 20,900 points and grabbed over 14,200 rebounds during that time. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1993. Today Bellamy is the vice chairman of College Park Business and Industrial Development Authority board in College Park, GA. He also works with the Atlanta branch of the NAACP.

1962: Bill McGill, Utah (Chicago Zephyrs)
McGill played just three seasons in the NBA and two seasons in the ABA before injuries cut his career well-short of what he expected. In the early ‘80s, the New York Times profiled athletes after their playing days. At the time McGill was working airport security and struggling to meet ends meet and send his kids to college. He last appeared in the news in 2006 - as of then, he resides in the Los Angeles area.
1963: Art Heyman, Duke (New York Knicks)
Heyman played just six seasons in the NBA and ABA despite averaging 15 points a night and making the NBA All-Rookie team. He ended his career with over 4,000 points. In 1996 he opened Tracy J’s Watering Hole in Manhattan, NY, but he eventually sold it. Today he resides in Clermont, FL, near Orlando, and New York City

1964: Jim Barnes, Texas Western (New York Knicks)
Barnes played with five NBA teams over seven seasons but knee injuries cut short his career. Following his retirement, he moved to the D.C.-area and helped the community in various capacities, mostly working with youth. He passed away at the age of 63 on Sept. 14, 2002, of heart problems.

1965: Fred Hetzel, Davidson (San Francisco Warriors)
Hetzel went on to play in six NBA seasons with five different teams. Today he keeps two homes, residing in Virginia and Bonita Springs, Florida, while working in the real estate industry.

1966: Cazzie Russell, Michigan (New York Knicks)
Russell spent 12 seasons in the NBA, his best being the five years he spent with the New York Knicks. He’d win a title with them in 1970. After retirement, Russell wound up in Savannah, GA, where he became the head basketball coach at the Savannah College of Art and Design for 13 years. After the program was disbanded following the 2008-09 season, Russell has remained in Savannah and is currently an associate pastor at the Live Oak Community Church.

1967: Jimmy Walker, Providence (Detroit Pistons)
Walker was named to two All-Star games in his 11 NBA seasons and scored over 11,600 points over his career. After his retirement in 1983, he was jailed for 90 days on a tax-related charge. Afterwards he laid low in Kansas City until he made the news again when it was revealed he was the father of Michigan’s Jalen Rose while Rose starred on the Fab Five. The two never met in person. In 2007, Walker passed from complications due to lung cancer.

1968: Elvin Hayes, Houston (Swan Diego Rockets)
Hayes hit the ground running as an NBA starter, averaging a double-double (24 PPG and 17 RPG) his rookie season. Eventually Hayes led the Washington Bullets to three NBA Finals and an NBA title in 1978. Today Hayes runs his own car dealership outside of Houston and works part time as a deputy sheriff.

1969: Lew Alcindor, UCLA (Milwaukee Bucks)
Alcindor would soon become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he remained the same winning player, amassing six MVPs and six championships over his 20-year Hall of Fame career. Once he retired, he dabbled in acting and wrote several books. Since 2005 he’s been a special assistant coach with the Lakers, working with Andrew Bynum.

1970: Bob Lanier, St. Bonaventure (Detroit Pistons)
Lanier averaged a double-double (20 PPG and 10 RPG) over his 14-year Hall of Fame career with Detroit and Milwaukee. Several years after his retirement in 1984, Lanier was asked to help launch the NBA’s Stay in School program. Since then he’s worked with other NBA outreach programs and even helped found Basketball Without Borders, a group that goes around the world spreading the game and helping at-risk youth. Lanier is currently a special assistant to NBA Commissioner David Stern and resides in Phoenix.

1971: Austin Carr, Notre Dame (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Carr played ten solid seasons in the NBA, averaging 15 points during his career. Injuries prevented him from reaching full super star status but he was named to the All-Rookie team. Today Carr is currently the Director of Community Relations for the Cavs and is a color commentator for the Cavs’ TV Broadcasts on Fox Sports Ohio.

1972: LaRue Martin, Loyola, Chicago (Portland Trail Blazers)
Martin’s college success never translated into the NBA. In just four seasons, Martin never averaged more than seven points a night and he never shot more than .452 from the floor. Adding insult to injury, he retired from the Trail Blazers just one year before they won a title. Today Martin lives in the Chicago area and is the community services manager for UPS.

1973: Doug Collins, Illinois State (Philadelphia 76ers)
Collins played just eight NBA seasons before injuries cut his career short, but he was named to four All-Star games during that time. He also reached the 1977 NBA Finals and scored over 7,400 points. He then became a moderately successful NBA coach, primarily known for his ability to turn around moribund franchises quickly like Chicago in the late ‘80s and Detroit in the mid-to-late ‘90s. A TNT analyst, he is now tasked with turning around the Philadelphia 76ers as their new head coaching going into 2010.

1974: Bill Walton, UCLA (Portland Trail Blazers)
Walton was a larger-than-life character on and off the court that might have been an even bigger star had injuries not kept him out of so many games. In 10 NBA seasons, Walton played in more than 60 games just three times. But he had a Hall of Fame career that included two NBA championships. Walton had a wildly successful broadcasting career. But recent back surgery has sidelined him from the broadcast booth as well, although he has appeared on ABC’s Finals coverage and will come some Kings games next season. He currently resides in San Diego.

1975: David Thompson, NC State (Atlanta Hawks)
Thomson was so offended by a perceived lack of respect from the Hawks, he signed with the ABA’s Denver Nuggets. During that season, he and Julius Erving competed in the first ever slam dunk competition, a contest he lost. He made his NBA debut the next season after the NBA-ABA merger and went on to play in four All-Star games. After signing a record-breaking contract in 1978, injuries and substance abuse problems cut short his career. Despite continuing to battle drug abuse after retirement, Thompson has since beaten his habit and become a motivational speaker. He most recently was chosen to introduce Michael Jordan during his Hall of Fame induction. He resides in Charlotte.

1976: John Lucas, Maryland (Houston Rockets)
Lucas played for 14 seasons in the NBA, but during much of that time he abused cocaine and alcohol. His addictions were discovered in 1986, but by agreeing to treatment, he avoided banishment from the league. Following his playing career, Lucas turned to coaching and became the head coach at San Antonio, Philadelphia and Cleveland, neither stint lasting more than two seasons. Today he’s currently an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers and is a well-renowned counselor.

1977: Kent Benson, Indiana (Milwaukee Bucks)
Benson’s professional career wasn’t particularly noteworthy, save for the first two minutes of it. In the opening moments of his first NBA game, Benson was clocked by Kareem Abdul-Jabber in retaliation for an elbow. The bunch broke Benson’s jaw. But he went on to play 11 seasons and score more than 6,100 points. Today he still lives around Bloomington and works as a professional fund raiser for Top Profits.

1978: Mychal Thompson, Minnesota (Portland Trail Blazers)
Thompson become the first foreign born player to be drafted No. 1 overall but there was nothing foreign about his game. He played for 14 seasons and in the process helped the Lakers win back-to-back titles in 1987 and ’88. Today he’s the Lakers radio color commentator and he co-hosts the “LA Sports Live” radio show with Andrew Siciliano. His oldest son Klay stars at Washington State while his middle son Mychel is at nearby Pepperdine.

1979: Earvin Johnson, Michigan State (Los Angeles Lakers)
There isn’t enough room to list all his professional accomplishments, but Magic’s five NBA championships is the one statistic you need to know about how well that No. 1 overall picked worked out. Since announcing he was HIV positive in 1991, Johnson has been just as much a force off the court as he was on it. He runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, which includes a production company and a line of theaters. He’s also a motivational speaker as well as vice president of the Lakers. Oh, and he works as an analyst for ESPN. There isn’t much Johnson can’t do.

1980: Joe Barry Carroll, Purdue (Golden State Warriors)
Despite a productive rookie season, Carroll got the nickname “Joe Barely Cares” because of his perceived indifference. He remained with the Warriors until 1987 when he was traded to Houston, which is when his numbers also started to decline. By 1991, he was with Phoenix and eventually retired from the game. Today he’s an investment banker living on his family ranch just outside of Atlanta.


Part II: 1981-2009

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