Friday, July 12, 2024

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When The NBA Draft Was Just A Phone Call

Nick Curran (left) with legendary Knicks broadcaster Marty Glickman. / George Kalinsky

Picture what the NBA Draft will look like on Thursday (8 ET, ABC/ESPN). The throngs of fans. Players dressed up waiting to hear their names called. The hugs and handshakes with family members and the Commissioner. Now take all that away. That’s what the Draft was like when Nick Curran was the NBA’s Director of Public Relations.

Curran started at the NBA in 1969, becoming the league’s first full-time PR employee, and stayed at the league for seven seasons. The long-time NBA fan began watching his hometown Boston Celtics in 1952 and has seen the league grow into what it is today over the last 70 years.

He oversaw the Draft during a time when it was conducted over a conference call – which occurred for the first time in 1970 – and players had little idea what was going on.

“The interest was there among fans around the country but the players were not visible,” Curran told last week. “Now they march across the stage and shake hands with the Commissioner, but the top picks were sitting in their college towns waiting for a phone call to see who drafted them.”

Take the 1970 NBA Draft as an example. Seven Hall of Famers were eventually picked in that draft, including Bob Lanier, Pete Maravich and Dave Cowens. That number doesn’t even include Rudy Tomjanovich who went on to become a Hall of Famer as a coach. All those players didn’t get the experience of hearing their names called and fans cheering for them like 60 players will get on Thursday.

Despite strong interest from the fans, there was also little information on who would be picked when. Curran had to go around to NBA GMs and scouts to get an idea of who might be picked as mock drafts had yet to become the mainstay there are now.

With so little information publicly available, it was not uncommon for certain picks to feel like they came out of nowhere. And with the technology of the day, some NBA front offices let it be known how they felt about those picks without realizing they were airing their thoughts to everyone in the league.

“Everybody throughout the country could hear it and some of the voices of NBA GMs were very distinct so you would know who it is,” Curran said.

Luckily for today’s GMs and front offices, their thoughts and comments will not be aired live. But the Draft will be aired to millions of people across the country, a far cry from what it looked like 50 years ago.

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