Ranked Hype Around NBA No. 1 Draft Picks
The NBA is all about its star players, and every year the NBA Draft picks its No. 1 player for the season. Over the years, some picks have caught the public eye — whether they lived up to their reputations or not; these are some of the high paid NBA players who garnered a lot of attention when they were selected as the NBA best picks.
Most Hyped Picks
Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
It’s been a long time since news coverage for sports wasn’t on a 24-hour cycle. Even before this time, Lew Alcindor was still dominating headlines when he was selected as NBA Draft’s number 1 pick for the season. Known to his fans as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Alcindor found his way to the cover of Time Magazine in 1965 when he was still just a teenage high school basketball star based out of New York City, where he helped his team score 71 back-to-back victories.
During his time at the University of California, Los Angeles, the National Collegiate Athletic Association banned Alcindor’s signature dunking moves, resulting in the star developing his now-famous “skyhook,” which helped him to win three national championships. Alcindor received offers from both the NBA and ABA teams, including a million-dollar deal to play for the Harlem Globetrotters before settling on the Milwaukee Bucks, where he became a household name.
During his time at Wake Forest, Tim Duncan drew attention for his skills on the court as early as his sophomore year, when he became known as one of the most promising young players in the game. Although he held to his commitment to remain at Wake Forest for the duration of his college career, it was widely assumed that he would be the NBA Draft’s No. 1 pick had he moved on during his junior year.
Instead, the talented young star — who twice won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s ‘Player of the Year’ award — chose to complete his bachelor’s, going on to win every significant conference’s ‘Player of the Year award during his senior year and was ultimately picked up by the San Antonio Spurs in ’97.
One of the most hotly debated topics during the NBA’s 2007 draft season was choosing Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Both players achieved fame during their freshman year when Oden had carried Ohio State to the national title game after being declared ‘Defensive Player of the Year.’ His average was 15.7 points, 3.3 blocks and 9.6 rebounds a game, and he quickly drew comparisons to NBA legends like Shaquille O’Neal. Despite a promising future in the sport and being picked up by the Portland Trail Blazers — beating out Kevin Durant — a series of injuries put an end to Oden’s prospects without him ever having the chance to fulfil his early potential.
During his freshman year at Georgetown University in Washington, Patrick Ewing attracted a lot of early attention from sports commentators, which was almost unheard of for a player of his age at that time. After a storied four-year stint in college football, which resulted in Ewing winning several titles and National Collegiate Athletic Association championships, Ewing was the unanimous No. Pick for the 1985 NBA Draft.
This is the first draft ever to use a lottery, creating even more tension around which team would win Ewing — the ultimate winners being the New York Knicks. Because the Knicks were the largest franchise at the time, it resulted in widespread conspiracy theories, which continue to be repeated today.
At a young age, Olajuwon migrated from his native Nigeria to play for the University of Houston and quickly got the eye of the sports community. Though he kept his game simple during his first year, he amped up his game with a vengeance after consulting with NBA star Moses Malone, who he credited with helping him improve on the court.
After this, he became a part of the ‘Phi Slamma Jamma’ duo with Clyde Drexler. In 1983, the National Collegiate Athletic Association named him ‘Player of the Year,’ even though he competed for the losing team. When he finally entered the NBA Draft, he was declared No. 1 pick, and every team in the league was in a race to score him, with the Houston Rockets winning by a coin toss.
The vast majority of skilled players who start at Duke are despised by the basketball fan community — except for Zion Williamson. During his first year in college, he captured the attention of commentators and fans with his intense dunking abilities and stunning blocks, which made him prime viewing for basketball fans.
Because of Williamson, Duke’s ratings skyrocketed, with reel-worthy plays that primed him for the advent of social media. When Williamson declared for the draft, he was the No. 1 pick, and the New York Knicks were a favorite to win him for their team — ultimately, the New Orleans Pelicans won the draw. Zion Williamson became a household name among sports fans.
No list of most hyped NBA stars could ever be complete without LeBron James — and no star has ever lived up to the hype quite as much, with the possible exception of Michael Jordan. James was the first underclass player to have ever been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was only in his junior year of high school. The headline read, “The Chosen One,” and set the tone for her the way James’s career would develop over the years.
His early games were broadcasted on ESPN, and Time Warner Cable included them in their pay-per-view selections. James was also twice named ‘Player of the Year’ by Gatorade National. All of this early attention resulted in his being picked by his hometown team — the Cleveland Cavaliers — his first year out of high school in ’03, when he was also named the NBA Draft’s No. 1 pick.