The 2014 NBA Draft lottery is just a little over a week away, and teams with high hopes of landing a top star like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker already are doing some pretty crazy things in the name of luck.
The Milwaukee Bucks, for example, are crowdsourcing their fans for pictures of their own lucky charms. The winning fan gets a pair of season tickets, whether Milwaukee lands the top pick or not. The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, are doubling that prize by offering four season tickets in a similar promotion. Even losing submissions win a couple of tickets to a Sixers game at some point during the upcoming season.
Teams are shameless when it comes to their lucky charms, which have been surprisingly silly over the years. Here are a few of the most memorable (and the most ridiculous) from lotteries of the past:
Top 5 NBA Draft Lottery Lucky Charms
#5 – Red’s Stogie Butts (1998) –Celtics GM Chris Wallace brought two half-smoked cigars from legendary Boston coach Red Auerbach to the 1998 NBA Draft lottery, which really was a brilliant idea for summoning luck, however those butts ended up yielding only the No. 10 pick. As it turns out, though, the old cigars were saving their luck for further down the road. Michael Olowokandi was the No. 1 overall pick that year, and with the tenth selection, Wallace snatched up Paul Pierce.
#4 – Triple Crown Lucky Horseshoe (1985) – For the first ever draft lottery, Knicks legend Dave DeBusschere represented his former team on the night when they’d earn the right to draft Patrick Ewing, the prize of that year’s class. Some still claim the whole thing was set up in a conspiracy to get Commissioner David Stern’s favorite franchise the top overall pick, but conspiracy theorists are very seldom proven right. In any event, DeBusschere brought with him a lucky horseshoe from On the Road Again—a Triple Crown winner that year—and that apparently was enough to land Ewing.
#3 – The Spiritual World (1989) – Donnie Walsh, in his first stint as GM of the Indiana Pacers, contacted several Indianapolis-area psychics and asked them to flood the organization with positive vibrations. The idea was that this would please the gods of luck and land the Pacers the top overall pick in that year’s draft. Unfortunately, they didn’t end up with any of the top three picks and were forced to select seventh, a selection they used on George McCloud. The good news is that Pervis Ellison was the top pick in the draft that year, so maybe the spirits were secretly protecting the Pacers from years of embarrassment.
#2 – Holy Virgin Mary Water from Lourdes, France (2007) – Greg Oden and Kevin Durant made this draft a particularly interesting affair, and the Minnesota Timberwolves were so desperate to sneak into the top two that they flew to France and trekked to a village where the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared in 1958. Whichever of the Wolves’ unlucky interns had to make the journey came back with a vial of holy water from Lourdes and gave it to Randy Foye for the lottery event, but it did nothing to boost the team’s chances. They stayed at pick No. 7 and ended up with Corey Brewer.
#1 – The Owner’s Son (2011 & 2013) – The overlying theme here is that, while teams do some pretty entertaining things to bring luck to the organization, it very seldom works. The opposite has been true of the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, who brought Nick Gilbert, son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, to the draft lotteries in both 2011 and 2013. They ended up with the #1 overall selection both times, proving that sometimes, good luck charms really are worth something.
Mr. Potato Head (1998) – In 1998, a Sacramento radio station held a contest to come up with a lucky charm idea for the Kings, and the winning idea was a Mr. Potato Head. The original “Toy Story” movie was only a few years old at that point, but the famous Pixar film rejuvenated interest in the classic toy just enough for it to win this little contest. Unfortunately, Mr. Potato Head didn’t bring Sacramento any lottery luck, as they still only finished with the seventh overall pick, to be used on Jason “White Chocolate” Williams.
Cowboy Fashion (1987) – Thanks to a bolo tie clasp with a red chameleon imprinted on it, the San Antonio Spurs were able to take David Robinson with the first overall selection in June of 1987. That worked out well, because picks No. 2 and No. 3 ended up being Armon Gilliam and Dennis Hopson. Even though Robinson couldn’t join the team until 1989 because of a commitment to the Navy, they still ended up with a Hall of Fame center, a Dream Teamer, and a guy that’d eventually lead them to a couple of championships.
Cow Magnet (1993) – A cow magnet is an actual magnet that farmers feed their cattle to keep them from getting shrapnel stuck in their guts after grazing. Cows will eat anything, and the magnets attract little bits of barbed wire or nails or staples that were ingested while the cows were blindly gobbling up grass. How a cow magnet got into the hands of Don Nelson is not known, but it did help get the Warriors the third pick in that draft when their record would’ve warranted only the seventh pick. That selection was eventually used in part of a bigger deal for top college prospect Chris Webber.
Ladybug Pendant (2007) – Despite only having a 5 percent chance of landing the top overall pick in that year’s draft, the Blazers ended up winning the right to choose between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Although in hindsight we know full well that Portland GM Kevin Pritchard chose incorrectly, nabbing the top selection with those odds is still admittedly pretty lucky. The Blazers sent Brandon Roy to be their lucky charm, but it’s more interesting to note that Pritchard’s daughter gave him an adorable little ladybug pendant for good luck.
Bucks Promotion (2005) – Milwaukee’s promotion this year isn’t the first time they’ve done this. In 2005, they ran a similar contest that resulted in a submission from Bucks fan Michael Millies that proved to be pretty unique. In his contest application, Millies claimed that whenever he used his lucky lure, he caught gigantic fish, and later that summer his favorite team caught the biggest fish in the draft—seven-footer Andrew Bogut, who, unlike some of the other guys on this list, actually has turned into a reasonably credible top overall pick.
Andy Roeser’s “Sport” Coat (2009) – In 2009, L.A. Clippers team president Andy Roeser had a custom blazer made in which Griffin’s #32 Clippers jersey was turned into part of the jacket. It looked atrociously garish but did result in his landing a player who recently finished in the top five in MVP voting. Fashion be darned; to land a player like Griffin, most GMs would wear lingerie if they had to.
It’s hard to blame any of these organizations for trying crazy things, particularly if they’ve ever had one of those crazy things work to their apparent advantage. We’ll soon see what lucky charms make their way to this year’s lottery on May 20, and which of them is actually successful.
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