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Where Are They Now? NBA Draft Busts

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At Thursday night's NBA Draft, teams will try to reload with the best available young talent. Some of these picks will turn into superstars, some will have steady journeyman careers as role players, and of course a few will be outright busts. What becomes of the busts after their NBA careers peter out? We did some digging to find out.

1. Bo Kimble (#8 overall in 1990) wasn't very good in the NBA, but he was quite the scorer at Loyola Marymount. Although Kimble has never coached at any level, he feels that his status as one of the school's most prominent alums makes him an ideal candidate to pull his alma mater's hoops program back on track, and last year he began campaigning for their coaching job.

2. Jonathan Bender (#5 overall in 1999) couldn't hang in the NBA, but he's become a prominent businessman and philanthropist in New Orleans. His Kingdom Homes buys and restores homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and he offers free financial advising classes to poor local residents. As of 2008 he also owned an Italian wine importing company and was trying to get a patent on a fitness device he invented.

3. Sharone Wright (#6 overall in 1993) had a quiet career before getting injured in a car accident and leaving the league altogether. Wright the bounced around Europe, and as of an October 2008 interview with Slam, he was coaching a team called the Eiffel Towers in a Dutch league.

4. Kelvin Ransey (#4 overall in 1980) was out of the NBA after the 1985-86 season, but he traded in his jersey for the cloth. Ransey returned to his hometown of Toledo to become a minister and later moved to Tupelo, Mississippi, to continue his ministry.


5. Shawn Bradley (#2 overall in 1993) never quite lived up to his lofty draft status, but he apparently found his niche after retirement when he got a job as an administrator, counselor, and coach at a Utah school for at-risk youths.

6. Chris Washburn (#3 overall in 1986) went just behind doomed draft pick Len Bias, and Washburn had some drug problems of his own. After the NBA banned him for life in 1989 following his third positive drug test, Washburn's been laying pretty low. However, as of 2002 he was working "in the mortgage business."

7. Former NCAA champion Ed O'Bannon (#9 overall in 1995) didn't quite have the size or quickness to hang in the NBA, but he found his calling in a different game: car sales. In 2006, O'Bannon told the Los Angeles Times, "People see me and remember me and I'm proud to tell them — 'No, I don't play. No, I don't coach. Yes, I sell cars.'"

8. Todd Fuller (#11 overall in the stacked 1996 draft) went ahead of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal, and other stars-in waiting. Fuller, who declined a Rhodes Scholarship to go to the NBA, is now back in North Carolina, where he sponsors the annual Todd Fuller Math Competition for high schoolers and sits on the Airport Advisory Committee for Charlotte's Douglas International Airport.

9. Robert Traylor (#6 overall in 1998) is probably best remembered as being traded for Dirk Nowitzki on draft day. Now the rotund big man is tearing things up for the mighty Antalya Kepez Belediyesi of the Turkish Basketball League.

10. Dennis Hopson (#3 overall in 1987) was supposed to be the next Michael Jordan. Whoops. After playing in Europe, Israel, and the Philippines, the former Nets draft pick is now an assistant coach under Rollie Massimino at Florida's Northwood University.

11. Steve Stipanovich (#2 overall in 1983) once accidentally shot himself in the foot, and his NBA career ended when a degenerative knee condition made playing too painful. He's had some luck after hoops, though, as according to the Pacers' website, he owns and operates a coal mine in his native Missouri.

laettner12. Christian Laettner (#3 overall in 1992) has become quite an investor following his solid-but-not-spectacular NBA career. He formed Blue Devil Ventures with his old Duke teammate Brian Davis and has been working on a mixed-used real estate development in Durham, N.C. Although his bid to buy the Memphis Grizzlies fell through when he couldn't wrangle $250 million, Laettner is a minority owner of Major League Soccer's D.C. United.

13. Jon Koncak (#5 overall in 1985) had a disappointing career that was mostly highlighted by the Hawks giving him a giant six-year contract extension despite the fact that he never really played all that well. According to a 2008 report, the man dubbed "Jon Contract" is now splitting his time between Wyoming and Atlanta and working as a full-time dad.

14. LaSalle Thompson (#5 overall in 1982) was never a star, but he hung around the NBA for 15 years. Now, he's the proprietor of Prime Time Auto, a Sacramento-based used car wholesaler.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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