If you want to be in the NBA, it helps to be, among other things, excellent at playing basketball.
If you want to be in the NBA draft, basketball skills aren’t required.
There is a group of 18 people who are officially “draft eligible” for Thursday’s festivities at Barclays Center in New York, and they have one thing in common: They will not be getting drafted. The NBA has them on what it calls the B List — “unknown individuals,” officially. All that is required is fill out the necessary paperwork to enter the draft, a process that has allowed some with no real basketball ability to apply.
It’s a phenomenon that’s not new. It’s gone on for nearly a half-century; some do it and generate attention, others have stayed quiet. It’s gimmicky, sure, but the rules are clear: If someone meets the general criteria laid out by the NBA, then they can become “eligible” for the draft.
A law student from Florida named Jordan Haber is one of this year’s 18 names; he’s posted several videos to TikTok detailing how he got into this year’s draft. He’s said he will be at Barclays Center on Thursday night for the draft — with tickets from the arena’s social media team, not an invite from the NBA.
WHO CAN ENTER THE DRAFT?
It’s really quite simple, as laid out in Article X, Section 1 of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (which is only in effect until July 1, but the rule on this isn’t expected to change much).
A player has to be at least 19 during the calendar year in which the draft is being held, and at least one NBA season must have elapsed since the player graduated (or should have graduated) from high school. From there, all someone needs to do is express interest to the NBA at least two months before the draft, forgo the rest of their college eligibility if necessary, and fill out some paperwork.
There are other rules, especially relating to international players, but that’s basically it.
IS THIS A LOOPHOLE IN THE SYSTEM?
No, it’s not a loophole. It’s part of a process that has existed for years. The B List is an avenue for the longest of long shots to see if they can make it. The first person known to apply was a player named Reinhard Schmuck, who played in nine games in one season at Division III’s Baruch College. He tried to get into the NBA two years later and told The Washington Post in 1987 that he was doing so to raise awareness for Baruch’s athletic programs.
“I’m really a nobody,” the newspaper quoted Schmuck as saying. “I wanted to do it because there are so many kids who give up on their dreams.”
HOW MANY HAVE DONE THIS?
There’s no official count, but it’s believed to be in the hundreds. Author Jeff Pearlman did it as a student at Delaware in 1993; in a piece he wrote a few years later for Sports Illustrated, Pearlman revealed that the NBA called to say “nobody here has heard of you.”
In 2008, a student from Washington University in St. Louis named Zachary Feinstein took a shot at getting into the NBA and detailed the exploits on a web page.
He revealed this on that page: “Also, I do not play basketball,” he said.
But he got into the draft anyway.