The Lottery: Lucky Charms

by Max Rappaport Writer

Sports fans are a superstitious bunch. We all have that lucky keychain, that chair in the living room that we just have to sit in, that t-shirt with the moth-eaten collar and coffee stains that we still break out for every big game… But like those beer commercials declare, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

In the world of professional basketball, there is perhaps no event that elicits this type of ritualistic behavior quite like the NBA Draft Lottery. 

Fourteen teams, fourteen ping pong balls, 1,000 potential combinations, and just three winners… It’s the ultimate twist of fate, an outcome that is completely left to chance, and the 14 men and women who travel to New York City to represent their team are willing to try just about anything they think might improve their chances.

Here’s a look back at a few of the luckiest lucky charms brought to past lotteries:

A Lucky Horseshoe, 1985 (NYK)

The NBA did not always determine drafting order by random lottery. The practice began in 1985, and in its first iteration, all 14 non-playoff teams were given an equal chance of being awarded the first-overall selection. The prize of that draft was future Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing, and the New York Knicks went to great lengths to secure his rights.  

The legend goes that former Knicks Communications Director John Cirillo, by virtue of a relationship with Yonkers Raceway, was able to borrow the shoe of pacing triple crown 

winner On The Road Again. Dave DeBusschere, who represented the team at the lottery, rubbed the horseshoe just before taking the stage for the random drawing that delivered the top pick, and Ewing, to New York. 

The Big Catch, 2005 (MIL)

Little Cleo, a lucky fishing lure submitted to the Milwaukee Bucks via an online contest in 2005.

In 2005, the Milwaukee Bucks held a contest in which fans submitted good luck charms for then-General Manager Larry Harris to bring with him to the lottery. The winner was 16-year-old Milwaukee native Michael Millies, who mailed in a fishing lure with the following message:

”My lucky charm is a fishing lure that I got from my grandpa called "Little Cleo," and it catches big, big fish whenever I use it fishing. I've had it for nine years and haven't lost it yet - and I still catch big fish. When I use other lures, the fish that I catch are nowhere near as big as the ones I catch with Cleo.”

Cleo did the trick, and Milwaukee jumped from the sixth slot all the way up to #1, selecting Australian center Andrew Bogut one month later.

The Jacket, 2009 (LAC)

Former Clippers President shows off his custom-lined jacket after receiving the #1-overall pick.

In 2009, the Los Angeles Clippers sent former President Andy Roeser to New York City to represent the team at the lottery. On the surface, the longtime executive appeared rather austere – no lucky charms, no outrageous garb, not even a Clippers lapel pin! 

But after discovering that his team had been awarded the top pick in the draft, a selection most analysts believed would be used on Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin, Roeser opened his sport jacket to reveal that it was lined with a Clippers uniform bearing the numbers 1 (representing the first-overall pick) and 23 (Griffin’s college jersey number).

Luck of the Irish, 1996 (PHI)

Set to represent the Sixers at the lottery in 1996, then-President Pat Croce went international with his lucky charm, ordering a miniature basketball made of crystal from a jeweler in Waterford, Ireland. Armed on lottery night with the crystal figure and a good-luck coin that had belonged to his late father, Croce patiently waited to learn his team’s fate. Much to his delight, the Sixers were awarded the top pick in that year’s draft and used it to select Georgetown point guard Allen Iverson.

Croce brought the crystal back with him the next year and again it paid off, as Philadelphia jumped from the fifth spot to second overall. In 1998, with the Sixers possessing just a 10.3% chance of jumping into the top three, he once again brought the vaunted charm with him to the lottery. But even the luck of the Irish wasn’t enough to overcome the odds, and the crystal basketball was retired.


What do YOU think the Sixers should bring to this year's draft lottery? Our friends over at 97.5 The Fanatic want to see your best good luck charms! Submit yours and receive two tickets to a game next season and be entered to win FOUR 2014-15 season tickets if your charm is selected. Entries must be submitted by Wednesday, May 15 at 2pm.

Related Content