After I wakened in Brooklyn on the morning of June 9, 1978, all I had deliberate to do was go to work. I didn’t know I might additionally find yourself going to the NBA Draft.
I additionally wasn’t conscious that the Celtics can be drafting Larry Chicken that day.
The very last thing I didn’t know: I used to be about to turn into the primary Celtics fan on the planet to know who the Celtics picked. However that is precisely what occurred, and I swear on Banner 18 that this story is 100% true.
Regardless of being born and raised in Brooklyn, I used to be not a fan of both the New York Knicks or the then-New Jersey Nets in 1978. Nope, I used to be a Celtics fan from the time I began following the NBA within the fall of 1965. That life-altering alternative was due to my (to at the present time) greatest buddy, Joe LoSchiavo, who had learn a Sports activities Illustrated article about Boston’s unique Sixth Man, Frank Ramsey.
Joe determined he preferred Ramsey, and so grew to become a Celtics fan. If my greatest buddy was going to root for Boston, then I used to be, too. And it paid off instantly: the Celts gained the 1966 title, which was Pink Auerbach’s final banner earlier than retiring from teaching. Joe and I had been hooked for all times.
A couple of years later, after graduating from Boston College (yep, I selected a Boston college), I used to be again dwelling in Brooklyn and dealing within the company communications division of a significant insurance coverage firm in midtown Manhattan. Arriving at my cubicle, I mentioned good morning to my workplace neighbor, Neil Shalin.
Neil’s reply: “Why do not we go to the NBA Draft in the present day?”
This suggestion was puzzling, as a result of the occasion was not open to the general public. A few years later, the NBA started permitting spectators; now they promote tickets at $ 42 a pop and likewise provide VIP experiences. However in 1978, the draft was not even televised.
Perceive, nonetheless, Neil was one of many smartest, wittiest individuals I’ve ever identified. He knew extra details about extra subjects than any three Jeopardy contestants mixed. Sports activities had been an enormous a part of his life, which included roles scouting faculty gamers for the Sixers, dealing with public relations for the Curler Derby and for the New York Nets of their early ABA years, and later authoring a number of books about baseball.
So when Neil made his suggestion in regards to the draft, he’d already discovered how we might get in. “We’ll pose as basketball writers.”
That will be mission unattainable in the present day with out credentials, nevertheless it was solely doable within the a lot much less security-conscious late ’70’s. When lunchtime approached, Neil grabbed his reporter’s pocket book, I borrowed a 35mm digital camera from our division’s gear room, and we made our manner some two dozen metropolis blocks north to The Plaza Resort.
The draft was about to start once we arrived on the ballroom the place all 22 groups had been represented. Neil informed the lady on the check-in desk we had been from the solely non-existent “Basketball Weekly.” She waved us proper in.
We did our greatest to mix in with the media members – Neil taking notes whereas I snapped random pictures. When groups started to announce their choices, the highest 5 decisions had been all within the room: Mychal Thompson went # 1 to the Portland Trailblazers; Phil Ford went to the Kansas Metropolis Kings; Rick Robey grew to become an Indiana Pacer; Micheal Ray Richardson was taken by the New York Knicks; and choose # 5 was Purvis Quick to the Golden State Warriors.
The Celtics had been up subsequent, holding choose # 6, and abruptly the door was open for Boston to get the man that would and will’ve gone # 1.
Chicken was coming off a school season the place he averaged 30 factors, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and was a First Crew All-American. The primary cause he wasn’t a lock for prime choose: he was draft-eligible below guidelines at the moment, however he nonetheless had one 12 months of faculty eligibility remaining – and he had pledged to make use of it. The NBA group that selected Chicken would wish to attend a full season for him, and then signal him earlier than the following draft, or lose him and don’t have anything.
Give it some thought, although. The Indiana Pacers handed on drafting in the end the best Hoosier to ever lace up sneakers. The Knicks did not seize the man who would’ve turn into New York’s hottest ticket. All 5 groups had their causes, however they absolutely got here to remorse not pondering massive.
In approaching this determination, Pink Auerbach had one key benefit: the Celtics additionally possessed the eighth choose, obtained from Los Angeles in a commerce the earlier season. Boston used that choose to get Freeman Williams, so it doesn’t matter what occurred with Chicken, Pink received a participant (two-time nationwide scoring chief in faculty) to assist instantly. In a twist, Williams was later traded earlier than ever sporting a Celtics uniform, however always remember that the headline right here is the Lakers helped the Celtics draft Larry Chicken!
Now, again within the ballroom, it was time. I heard the phrases, “the Boston Celtics choose Larry Chicken from Indiana State!”
Neil and I, the impostors, had been the one followers who heard the announcement first-hand (and Neil was a Knicks fan). Everybody else within the room labored for the league, the groups, or the information media. Moreover having no reside TV protection, there was no satellite tv for pc radio community, no cellphone in each pocket, no web sites to be up to date. ESPN was a 12 months away, Twitter three a long time therefore. The one line of communication was the convention telephone name connecting the ballroom with the twenty-two entrance places of work of their dwelling cities.
Different followers across the US wouldn’t know till they in all probability heard a radio information report, or watched their native night information. Newspaper protection, even in afternoon editions (sure, publishing a number of occasions per day was a factor then), can be a number of hours away. For no less than a quick interval, Neil and I had been the one Celtics followers who knew and we received the hell out of there as a result of we had been already very late coming back from lunch.
In fact, we all know the remaining. Larry performed his closing faculty season, main Indiana State to a 33-0 document and the championship sport earlier than falling to Magic Johnson and Michigan State. The best factor, although, was having a future Celtic to root for all through the event.
Then Chicken clearly signed earlier than the one-year deadline, gained Rookie of the Yr for main Boston to 61 wins after 29 the season earlier than, and in his second 12 months the Celtics raised a banner. Pink had carried out it once more.
Wanting again on that day within the resort ballroom, we knew Larry was in all probability the very best participant in that draft, and it was clear we might witnessed a particular second in Celtics historical past. We simply didn’t know proper then that he would turn into Larry Legend. In hindsight, that draft was one in all Boston sports activities’ all-time best moments, and I had the nice fortune to see it occur.