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The Worst First Pick in Basketball History

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There’s not much we can say with certainty as Thursday's NBA draft approaches. Some team will get a terrific bargain in this draft. Some team will burn its pick on a colossal disappointment whose name will be whispered in the same breath those of uber-busts Darko Mili?i? and Marcus Fizer. NBA general managers should take heart, though. No matter how boneheaded their draft picks are, no matter how colossally their selections flop, they won’t make the worst NBA draft selection of all time. That distinction goes to the very first pick of the league’s very first draft.

When the Basketball Association of America held its inaugural draft on July 1, 1947, the Pittsburgh Ironmen held the first overall pick. (The BAA would merge with the National Basketball League in 1949 to form the National Basketball Association.) The Ironmen used the league’s first-ever pick to select Clifton McNeely, a 28-year-old guard from Texas Wesleyan and veteran of the Army Air Corps. This decision proved to be one of the worst in league history, right up there with “Let’s lock up Jerome James for five years, $30 million!”


From a basketball standpoint, the selection of McNeely made sense. The Ironmen’s struggling offense had only managed to score 61.2 points per game the previous season. The team’s defense was on the wrong side of mediocre, too, so Pittsburgh had piled up a rotten 15-45 record and finished dead last in the standings. McNeely, meanwhile, had been an All-American at Texas Wesleyan while leading the nation in scoring. An anemic offense snapping up a scoring savant seemed perfectly logical.

Just one problem...

Or, rather, it would have been perfectly logical if McNeely had wanted to play pro basketball. He didn’t. McNeely turned down the Ironmen’s employment offer in favor of staying home and coaching high school hoops in Pampa, TX. (Apparently the pre-draft interview process for prospects was less rigorous in those days; nobody bothered to ask questions like, “You do want to play pro basketball, right?”) It wasn’t a bad decision for McNeely; he coached Pampa to four state titles in 13 years on the bench. He later became a principal and school administrator.

To put it mildly, the bungled pick didn’t turn out quite as well for the Ironmen. Owner John Harris actually folded the team before the 1947-48 BAA season even started. The best evidence that the Ironmen ever existed comes from their terrible showing in the team’s one and only draft.

The Ironmen weren’t the only BAA squad who left the 1947 draft with nothing to show for their first-round pick, though. The Providence Steamrollers selected University of Connecticut standout Walt Dropo with the fourth overall pick of the draft. Dropo spurned the Steamrollers to join the Boston Red Sox. He was both an All-Star and the American League Rookie of the Year in 1950 at the beginning of a 13-year MLB career.

Of course, the only thing more frustrating than wasting picks is seeing the players you pass over go on to great things. While McNeely, Dropo, and two of the other 10 first-round picks never suited up for their respective squads, three players taken much later in the draft would later earn induction into the Hall of Fame: Harry “the Horse” Gallatin, 6’4” forward-center Jim Pollard, and swingman Andy Phillip.

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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