August 16, 2012 in Professional
Many great stories have emerged since Central Michigan great Dan Roundfield‘s tragic death last week. This one from Peter May of the New York Times is very interesting though. Basically, Roundfield’s Indiana Pacers were in a position to draft Larry Bird in 1978. Bird was draft eligible despite his intention to play his final year of college basketball, so a team could draft him, but if they weren’t able to sign him prior to the 1979 draft, Bird could simply re-enter the draft that year and the team that picked him in 1978 would have wasted a pick.
The Pacers had Roundfield, just coming into his own as a NBA player, and owned the No. 3 pick in 1978. They wanted to pair Roundfield with in-state hero Bird to make a formidable frontcourt. Roundfield, however, had other plans. Via May:
The Pacers, who had the No. 3 pick in the first round, initially felt that Bird was not going to play for them (or anyone else) in 1978-79, but as the June draft approached, they revisited the Bird situation. A future frontcourt of Bird and Roundfield would be a solid nucleus, Pacers Coach Bob Leonard felt, and he decided he was willing to draft Bird, wait for him to finish his collegiate career and gamble that the Pacers could sign him by the following June.
But the Hawks suddenly swooped in and signed Roundfield. And with no Roundfield, Leonard felt it unwise to wait, and hope, for Bird. Instead, the Pacers used the No. 3 pick on Rick Robey, whom they ended up trading away anyway. Meanwhile, the Celtics did gamble on Bird, using the No. 6 pick to select him and then just beating the 12-month deadline by signing him to a five-year, $3.25 million deal. The rest, including a bunch of Celtics championships with Bird leading the way, is history.
It’s always interesting how subtle, seemingly under the radar moves at the time can often alter the course of basketball history when you look back on them.