How A 49-Year-Old Pharmacist Was Once Drafted To The NBA

Needless to say, the NBA has huge legions of fans. According to NBA, in fact, the big games have just been becoming more and more popular in recent years. The Milwaukee Bucks' victory over the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 Finals was reportedly watched by 12.52 million people, a leap of 50% over the previous year's Finals.

What is it about basketball that keeps viewers enthralled? Essentially, the same thing that attracts fans to many sports: The sense of community that comes with dedication to a team, the high stakes of the biggest matches, the thrill of watching clashes between the greatest athletes in the world at the highest level of play.

There's nothing quite like the fame and fortune that comes with being a globally adored athlete. In the basketball arena, there's surely no bigger star than Michael Jordan, the legendary player who is reportedly worth an astronomical $2.2 billion (via Celebrity Net Worth). How could a pharmacist who was almost 50 years old compete at Jordan's level? Well, they couldn't. But that wasn't the point.

Dr. Norman Horvitz, almost of the Philadelphia 76ers

For all the glitz and glamour of a career at the very pinnacle of sports, the experience tends to be short-lived. Professional athletes train incredibly hard, and they put their bodies through an awful lot. With the risk of injuries added to the bargain, it's inevitable that retirement can come very early for these stars (enormous salaries help there, of course).

For the biggest athletes in some disciplines, simply reaching your mid-to-late 30s can render you ancient. According to the NBA, a career lasts just 4.5 years on average, meaning that all but the very, very elite have a narrow window during which they're in their prime.

In defiance of all this, though, as The New York Times reported in July of 1983, Dr. Norman Horvitz was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers at the age of 49. Needless to say, though, as the outlet went on to explain, this was not a serious drafting.

Horvitz's NBA career was not to be, sadly

Per The New York Times, Dr. Horvitz (all 5 feet 10 inches of him) graduated from Philadelphia's School of Pharmacy back in 1956. He was reportedly a basketball fan who had experience shooting hoops in the past, but wasn't exactly the LeBron James of his day.

What Horvitz did have, however, were Philadelphia friends in high places. According to the Times, he regularly played poker with none other than Harold Katz, owner of the 76ers. Katz and Dr. Horvitz (the doctor also worked at another of Katz' properties, Nutrisystems, at that time) arranged the drafting "as a harmless prank among buddies," according to the outlet. The report went on, "the NBA ... quickly checked into it and then declared the chunky backcourt operative ineligible. No reason was given."

Sadly, Horvitz missed the opportunity to become a relatively elderly basketball legend. As it is, per NBC Sports, Nat Hickey remains the oldest athlete ever to play in the NBA. Hickey was reportedly 45 years of age when he played for the Providence Steamrollers (the team he also coached at the time) in the season of 1947-48.