The 1977 NBA Draft And Its Bizarre Occurrences

The 1977 NBA draft was the 31st in league history after its founding during the 1946-1947 season. The Milwaukee Bucks, who were still struggling in the recent aftermath of trading Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975, were awarded the 1st overall pick after posting the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

The 1977 NBA draft was the first draft for the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets, and San Antonio Spurs, former ABA teams that had just joined the NBA after the ABA folded.

The 1977 NBA Draft

The 1977 NBA draft was an above-average draft, producing a large number of players who would have long, successful careers in the NBA. Although top pick Kent Benson was one of the most disappointing #1 picks in NBA history, averaging just 9.1 PPG for his career, many other picks in the top-10 and beyond would play a major role in the NBA throughout the late 70s and 80s.

The 1977 NBA draft class produced 8 players who were named to at least 1 all-star team, 4 players who were named to at least 1 All-NBA Team, and 2 members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Who won Rookie of the Year?

Walter Davis won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award with an outstanding individual season at the small forward position. He averaged 24.2 PPG, 6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.4 SPG and shot a remarkable 52.6% from the field and 83% from the free-throw line.

His elite-level play helped the Suns improve their win total from the previous season by 15 games. Davis’s 1977-1978 rookie season is one of the most underrated and under appreciated rookie seasons in NBA history.

The 1977 NBA Draft Class

FIRST ROUND

  1. Kent Benson (Milwaukee Bucks)
  2. Otis Birdsong (Kansas City Kings)
  3. Marques Johnson (Milwaukee Bucks)
  4. Greg Ballard (Washington Bullets)
  5. Walter Davis (Phoenix Suns)
  6. Kenny Carr (Los Angeles Lakers)
  7. Bernard King (New Jersey Nets)
  8. Jack Sikma (Seattle SuperSonics)
  9. Tom LaGarde (Denver Nuggets)
  10. Ray Williams (New York Knicks)
  11. Ernie Grunfeld (Milwaukee Bucks)
  12. Cedric Maxwell (Boston Celtics)
  13. Tate Armstrong (Chicago Bulls)
  14. Tree Rollins (Atlanta Hawks)
  15. Brad Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
  16. Rickey Green (Golden State Warriors)
  17. Bo Ellis (Washington Bullets)
  18. Wesley Cox (Golden State Warriors)
  19. Rich Laurel (Portland Trail Blazers)
  20. Glenn Mosley (Philadelphia 76ers)
  21. Anthony Roberts (Denver Nuggets)
  22. Norm Nixon (Los Angeles Lakers)

SECOND ROUND

  1. Mike Glenn (Chicago Bulls)
  2. Larry Johnson (Buffalo Braves)
  3. Wilson Washington (Philadelphia 76ers)
  4. Glen Gondrezick (New York Knicks)
  5. Glen Williams (Milwaukee Bucks)
  6. Kim Anderson (Portland Trail Blazers)
  7. Alonzo Bradley (Indiana Pacers)
  8. Steve Sheppard (Chicago Bulls)
  9. Eddie Owens (Kansas City Kings)
  10. Toby Knight (New York Knicks)
  11. Eddie Jordan (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  12. Larry Moffett (Houston Rockets)
  13. Mark Landsberger (Chicago Bulls)
  14. Ben Poquette (Detroit Pistons)
  15. Jeff Wilkins (San Antonio Spurs)
  16. Ricky Love (Golden State Warriors)
  17. Phil Walker (Washington Bullets)
  18. Robert Reid (Houston Rockets)
  19. T.R. Dunn (Portland Trail Blazers)
  20. Bob Elliott (Philadelphia 76ers)
  21. Herm Harris (Philadelphia 76ers)
  22. Essie Hollis (New Orleans Jazz)

THIRD ROUND

  1. Bill Paterno (KCK)
  2. James Edwards (LAL)
  3. Gary Yoder (MIL)
  4. Sam Smith (ATL)
  5. Eddie Johnson (ATL)
  6. Tony Hanson (NOJ)
  7. Stan Mayhew (IND)
  8. Joe Hassett (SEA)
  9. John Kuester (KCK)
  10. Lloyd McMillian (NYK)
  11. Steve Grote (CLE)
  12. Skip Brown (BOS)
  13. Steve Puidokas (WSB)
  14. John Irving (DET)
  15. Dan Henderson (SAS)
  16. Marlon Redmond (GSW)
  17. Jerry Schellenberg (WSB)
  18. Phil Bond (HOU)
  19. Ricky Brown (POR)
  20. Arnold Dugger (PHI)
  21. Robert Smith (DEN)
  22. Mike Bratz (PHO)

FOURTH ROUND

  1. Bob Elmore (NJN)
  2. Melvin Watkins (BUF)
  3. Lewis Brown (MIL)
  4. Dave Bormann (ATL)
  5. Greg Griffin (PHO)
  6. Dennis Boyd (NOJ)
  7. George Pendleton (IND)
  8. Jim Cooper (SEA)
  9. Larry Williams (KCK)
  10. Steve Hayes (NYK)
  11. Melvin Jones (CLE)
  12. Jeff Cummings (BOS)
  13. Mike McConalthy (CHI)
  14. Bruce King (DET)
  15. Matt Hicks (SAS)
  16. Roy Smith (GSW)
  17. David Reavis (WSB)
  18. Rocky Smith (HOU)
  19. Greg White (POR)
  20. Jeff Jonas (PHI)
  21. Leartha Scott (GSW)
  22. Tony Robertson (LAL)

FIFTH ROUND

  1. Gerald Cunningham (NJN)
  2. Mike Hanley (BUF)
  3. Ron Norwood (MIL)
  4. Bill Gordon (ATL)
  5. Cecil Rellford (PHO)
  6. Jim Grady (NOJ)
  7. Marvin Jackson (IND)
  8. Dale Haverman (SEA)
  9. Bob Chapman (KCK)
  10. Bill Terry (NYK)
  11. Al Smith (CLE)
  12. Bill Langloh (BOS)
  13. Nate Davis (CHI)
  14. Jim Kennedy (DET)
  15. Scott Sims (SAS)
  16. Ray Epps (GSW)
  17. Bruce Parkinson (WSB)
  18. Ed Thompson (HOU)
  19. Donn Wilber (POR)
  20. Teko Wynder (PHI)
  21. John Billips (DEN)
  22. John Robinson (LAL)

SIXTH ROUND

  1. Mark Crow (NJN)
  2. Curvan Lewis (BUJ)
  3. Chuck Goodyear (MIL)
  4. Calvin Crews (ATL)
  5. Billy McKinney (PHO)
  6. Wayne Golden (NOJ)
  7. Tom Scheffler (IND)
  8. Bucky O’Brien (SEA)
  9. Bob Cooper (KCK)
  10. Jerry Craycraft (NYK)
  11. Ron Cox (CLE)
  12. Roy Pace (BOS)
  13. Jay Cheesman (CHI)
  14. Herb Nobles (DET)
  15. Bruce Buckley (SAS)
  16. Jack Phelan (GSW)
  17. Ernie Wansley (WSB)
  18. Myron Jordan (POR)
  19. George Gibson (PHI)
  20. Jim Town (DEN)
  21. Grover Woolard (LAL)

SEVENTH ROUND

  1. Scott Conant (NJN)
  2. Mike Jackson (BUF)
  3. Ron Bostick (MIL)
  4. James Holliman (ATL)
  5. Alvin Scott (PHO)
  6. Lusia Harris (NOJ)
  7. Billy Reynolds (SEA)
  8. Caitlyn Jenner (KCK)
  9. Tom Weadock (NYK)
  10. Bob Riddle (CLE)
  11. Dave Kyle (BOS)
  12. Mike Smith (CHI)
  13. Robert Lewis (DET)
  14. Richard Robinson (SAS)
  15. Jerry Thruston (GSW)
  16. Calvin Brown (WSB)
  17. Don Smith (POR)
  18. Dennis Forrest (PHI)
  19. Willie High (DEN)
  20. Lars Hansen (LAL)

EIGHTH ROUND

  1. Ralph Drollinger (NJN)
  2. Emery Sammons (BUF)
  3. Larry Pikes (MIL)
  4. Verne Thompson (ATL)
  5. Alvin Joseph (PHO)
  6. Dave Speicher (NOJ)
  7. Jeff Frey (SEA)
  8. Ken Slappy (NYK)
  9. Tom Cutter (CLE)
  10. Tom Harris (BOS)
  11. Rich Rhodes (CHI)
  12. Tim Appleton (DET)
  13. Jerome Gladney (SAS)
  14. Ricky Marsh (GSW)
  15. Pat McKinley (WSB)
  16. Harold Rhodes (POR)
  17. John Olive (PHI)
  18. Len Sanders (DEN)
  19. Art Allen (LAL)

Who was the Best Player in the 1977 NBA Draft?

After being selected with the 7th overall pick by the New Jersey Nets, Bernard King established himself as the best player of the 1977 NBA draft class. King was one of the premier small forwards of the 1980s, putting together several incredible statistical seasons during the decade.

Unfortunately, King was hindered by injuries most of his career, missing 2 full seasons as well as large portions of other seasons, preventing him from reaching the heights of other stand-out small forwards of his era like Larry Bird and Julius Erving.

King averaged 22.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1 SPG, and shot 51.8% from the field during his career. He was named to the All-NBA 1st Team 2 times, was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team once, was named to the All-NBA 3rd team once, and was named to 4 all-star teams. King was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

1977 NBA Draft Best Players

Otis Birdsong

Otis Birdsong was the 2nd pick of the 1977 draft by the Kansas City Kings and quickly developed into a very good shooting guard. Starring alongside point guard Phil Ford during the late 70s and early 80s, the Kings had one of the best young backcourts in the NBA and appeared headed for a bright future. However, Ford’s career soon fizzled out and Birdsong was traded to the New Jersey Nets, miring the Kings in a downward spiral that saw them make only one playoff appearance from 1986 to 1998. Birdsong averaged 18 PPG, 3.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, and shot 50.6% from the field. He was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team once and was named to 4 all-star teams.

Marques Johnson

Although the Milwaukee Bucks’ 1st overall pick, Kent Benson, proved to be a major disappointment, their #3 pick, Marques Johnson became an excellent all-around small forward. He averaged 20.1 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, and shot 51.8% from the field. Johnson was named to the All-NBA First Team once, was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team twice, and was named to 5 all-star games. Johnson suffered a neck injury during his 10th season in the league that effectively ended his career. Johnson may have qualified for the hall of fame if had been able to stay healthy, as he was still a good player at the time of his injury.

Walter Davis

Early on in his career, it appeared that small forward Walter Davis, the #5 pick by the Phoenix Suns, would end up being the best player of the 1977 NBA draft. Unfortunately, drug problems and chronic back issues allegedly prevented him from reaching his full potential. Still, Davis averaged 18.9 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, while shooting 51.1% from the field and 85.1% from the free-throw line. Davis was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team twice and was named to 6 all-star games.

Jack Sikma

Center Jack Sikma was the 8th pick in the draft by the Seattle SuperSonics and would end up being one of the franchise’s most successful players. He averaged 15.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1 SPG, and shot 84.9% from the free-throw line, an incredible achievement for a center. He was named to the All-Defensive 2nd Team once and was named to 7 all-star games. Sikma was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.

Rickey Green

After being selected with the #16 overall pick by the Golden State Warriors, point guard Rickey Green struggled in the NBA and was out of the league after 2 seasons. However, he was able to work his way back and develop into a good NBA starter for a few seasons and would enjoy several more seasons as a reserve. Green averaged 9.4 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, and shot 80.7% from the free-throw line. He was also named to 1 all-star game during the 1983-1984 season.

Norm Nixon

Point guard Norm Nixon was the last pick of the 1st round, 22nd overall, by the Los Angeles Lakers, but quickly overachieved his draft status, developing into a very good starting point guard. When the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson 2 years later, Nixon moved to shooting guard, functioning as a hybrid guard that could play either the point guard or shooting guard position. Nixon was a part of 2 championships with the Lakers in 1980 and 1982 and averaged 15.7 PPG, 8.3 APG, and 1.5 SPG for his career. He was also named to 2 all-star teams during the 1981-1982 and 1984-1985 seasons.

Eddie Johnson

An unheralded draft prospect out of Auburn University, Eddie Johnson was drafted in the 3rd round of the draft with the 49th overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks. However, he dramatically overachieved his draft status, averaging 15.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 1.1 SPG at the shooting guard position. Johnson was named to the All-Defensive 2nd Team twice and was named to 2 all-star teams.

Why was the 1977 NBA Draft so weird?

The 1977 NBA draft was known for having several interesting, strange, or unique circumstances surrounding its operation. For example, the Kansas City Kings selected Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, who had just come off a gold medal performance at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Also, because the draft was so long during this era, teams would often get creative with some of their late-round picks. The Los Angeles Lakers famously tried selecting Scooby-Doo with their 7th round pick, and then, a wooden chair. The Scooby-Doo pick and the 1977 NBA draft chair did not amuse the league, which would force the Lakers to make an actual selection.

Was a Female Basketball Player Drafted in 1977?

The New Orleans Jazz selected Lusia Harris in the 7th round of the draft, a female college basketball star. This marked just the 2nd time in NBA history that a female player had been selected, with Denise Long being the first in 1969 by the San Francisco Warriors. Because the NBA invalidated the pick by the Warriors in 1969, Harris remains to this day the only woman to be officially drafted into the NBA.

The Unique And Strange Draft Class

The 1977 NBA draft was an above average-draft that produced many talented players who would have successful pro careers. Although the #1 pick was a major disappointment, many other early and late picks would end up improving the overall strength of the 1977 NBA draft class. However, some of the strange or unique occurrences surrounding the draft would ultimately define it.

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