LeBron James, drafted out of high school, was one of the most anticipated first overall draft picks.
The National Basketball Association’s first overall pick is the player who is selected first among all eligible draftees by a team during the annual National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft. The first pick is awarded to the team that wins the NBA Draft Lottery; in most cases, that team had a losing record in the previous season. The team with the first pick attracts significant media attention, as does the player who is selected with that pick.
Eleven first picks have won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award: Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (record six-time winner), Bill Walton, Magic Johnson (three-time winner), Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan (two-time winner), LeBron James (four-time winner), and Derrick Rose (youngest winner).
Since the advent of the draft lottery in 1985, only seven number one overall picks have won an NBA title. They are David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Glenn Robinson, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Andrew Bogut, and Kyrie Irving.
China’s Yao Ming (2002) and Italy’s Andrea Bargnani (2006) are the only two players without competitive experience in the United States to be drafted first overall. Ten other international players with U.S. college experience have been drafted first overall—Mychal Thompson (Bahamas) in 1978, Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) in 1984, Patrick Ewing (Jamaica) in 1985, Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands) in 1997, Michael Olowokandi (Nigeria) in 1998, Andrew Bogut (Australia) in 2005, Kyrie Irving (Australia) in 2011, Anthony Bennett (Canada) in 2013, Andrew Wiggins (Canada) in 2014, Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic) in 2015, and Ben Simmons (Australia) in 2016. Duncan is an American citizen, but is considered an “international” player by the NBA because he was not born in one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia.
Note that the drafts between 1947 and 1949 were held by the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The Basketball Association of America became the National Basketball Association after absorbing teams from the National Basketball League in the fall of 1949. Official NBA publications include the BAA Drafts as part of the NBA’s draft history.
2 List of first overall picks
3 See also
Denotes players who have been selected to the All-Star Game or All-NBA Team