The NBA draft is one of the biggest events for the league but they have given us very curious moments over the years. The draft wasn't always this clean and well organized; the league had some problems figuring things out and deciding what to do and what not to do.
Back in 1974, people witnessed one of the most curious moments in NBA draft history. The picks went by and the Atlanta Hawks had a 10th round selection and the general manager of the team used it to honor his newborn son, surprising the official in charge of the selections. It was a great story but it also proved how crazy things were back then.
On May 27, 1974, Atlanta Hawks executive Pat Williams (currently employed by the Orlando Magic) celebrated the birth of his son James — one of what would eventually become 18 Williams children. May 28, 1974 was the NBA Draft. After using a bunch of the picks Atlanta acquired by trading away star Pete Maravich, Williams decided to honor his son with a tenth-round pick. With the selection of James Williams, Atlanta became the first (and, as far as I know, last) NBA franchise to draft a person one day old. Williams’s wingspan was pitiful, and his vertical leap unmeasurable, since he couldn’t stand or even lift his head. Because he was a newborn, you see.
The joke pick confused the league for moment, because the basketball-sized person Atlanta selected happened to share his name with an actual college basketball player — streetball legend James “Fly” Williams. From the May 29, 1974 Greenville News (Greenville, SC):
“In the 10th round, Atlanta selects James Williams,” said Hawks general manager Pat Williams, speaking very distinctly into the microphone in front of him.
“Do you mean ‘The Fly’?” came the reply from the league official on the New York end of the line, referring to the under-class scoring star from Austin Peay who was not eligible to be selected.
“No, this is James Littlejohn Williams,” said the Hawks’ spokesman.
“Well, where’s he from?” asked the NBA man, intent on getting the vital information needed on all draft selections.
“Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta,” said Williams, “and he’s 19 1⁄2 inches and weighs seven pounds, five ounces.”
After the laughter on the coast-to-coast hookup subsided, the NBA official congratulated Williams and his wife, Jill, on the birth of their son and then proceeded to void the selection.
Things have changed a lot from that year to this day. The NBA only has two rounds and 60 picks, so things are simpler now. We have seen some crazy stories over the years. Three years after this event, the Los Angeles Lakers tried to draft none other than Scooby-Doo and a wooden chair, explaining how absurd was the draft back in the day.
Williams had the chance to do the same a couple of years ago but he opted to pick an actual player (one imagines) the same day his wife was giving birth to another son.