NBA Draft

Who Was The 1st NBA Draft Pick?

The NBA draft is tomorrow and there are many questions to be answered. Will Cleveland take Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins? How far Joel Embiid fall after his broken foot? Will anyone wear a suit that looks worse than this?

Those are all great questions, but they are not what I am wondering. I want to know about the 1st pick. Not this year, I’m talking about the 1st ever pick. Who was the 1st pick of all the 1st picks? That is what I will answer in today’s Wonder Why Wednesday…

Who Was The 1st Ever NBA Draft Pick?

The first ever NBA draft took place before the NBA even existed. Confused? I’ll explain.

Before it was called as the NBA, the National Basketball Association was known as the BAA, or Basketball Association of America. The first ever BAA draft took place on July 1, 1947, prior to the 1947-48 season. The BAA consisted of 10 teams who would select in reverse order of their win-loss record in the previous season.

With the 1st pick, the Pittsburgh Ironmen selected Clifton McNeely from Texas Wesleyan University.

What an honor, right?

Apparently McNeely didn’t think so. Despite being chosen as the top prospect of all college basketball players, McNeely decided to pass on the BAA. In fact, McNeely chose to pass on playing basketball altogether.

McNeely decided he did not want to play professional basketball, instead opting to coach at Pampa High School in Texas. 

What is it with these 1st draft picks never playing in their particular league?? As I covered prior to the NFL Draft, Jay Berwanger, a halfback from the University of Chicago, took a job with a Chicago rubber company and never played a down in the NFL.

In the 1930s and 40s, was professional basketball really lower on the totem pole than a job where you make rubber or coach high school kids? A lot has changed since then.

Here are some other fun facts from the 1947 BAA Draft:

  • The Pittsburgh Ironmen and Toronto Huskies participated in this draft, but they folded before the season opened.
  • Four of the top 10 picks never played a game in the NBA.
  • Clifton McNeely had a successful high school coach.He coached for 13 years and won four state championships. He was later inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • Three players from this draft, Harry Gallatin, Andy Phillip and Jim Pollard, have been inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame.


Photo credit: Wikipedia