Why The Atlanta Hawks Once Drafted An Actual Baby

The NBA drafts of the 1970s and (most of the) 1980s were a far cry from the flashy present-day version we're familiar with. Instead of today's two-round affairs where teams select only the best players available, many of these old-school drafts had as many as 10 rounds, or even more before the NBA (sort of) tightened things up. As such, teams would sometimes use their late-round picks on what could charitably be called joke selections. Case in point: Dr. Norman Horvitz, a 5-foot-10-inch guard out of the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy who was all of 49 years old when his hometown 76ers drafted him in 1983. The pick was voided because obviously, it had been well over five years since Horvitz graduated from college (via The Draft Review). Besides, the Sixers had room for only one doctor in their lineup, and his name was Julius Erving.

Then you had athletes from other sports getting drafted on a lark. Dallas Cowboys defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones stood 6-foot-9-inches and had the perfect height for an NBA power forward, but similar to Horvitz, his selection by the San Antonio Spurs in the eighth round of the 1979 NBA Draft was disallowed because he had been out of school for more than five years. That wasn't the case with two U.S. Olympic track stars whose selections were considered valid — the Kansas City Kings picked Caitlyn Jenner in the seventh round of the 1977 draft, and seven years later, the Chicago Bulls used a 10th-round pick on Carl Lewis, exactly 205 picks after they found their future franchise superstar by drafting Michael Jordan.

In all those instances, the players chosen were full-grown adults. But years before all those joke selections were made, the Atlanta Hawks actually drafted a baby with one of their late-round picks.

In 1974, the Hawks drafted their GM's newborn son to celebrate his birth

Aside from being the co-founder of, and a longtime executive for the Orlando Magic, Pat Williams is probably best known for being the architect of the Philadelphia 76ers' championship contender (and in 1983, championship-winning) teams of the late '70s and early '80s, which were led by the likes of the aforementioned Julius Erving and preps-to-pros phenom Moses Malone (via Forbes). Prior to joining the Sixers as general manager, Williams spent one season in the same capacity with the Atlanta Hawks, where, on May 20, 1974, he made the confounding decision to trade superstar guard Pete Maravich for a bunch of journeymen and future draft picks. Exactly a week later, during the 1974 NBA Draft, he celebrated the birth of his son James by drafting him in the 10th round.

As Secret Base humorously put it, James Williams' "wingspan was pitiful, and his vertical leap unmeasurable, since he couldn't stand or even lift his head." This was an obvious case of the elder Williams showcasing the sense of humor that helped make him such an effective promoter. But there was more to the story than Pat Williams goofing around after coming away with a nice enough haul that featured high-scoring second-round pick, John Drew. As it turned out, there was another James Williams who was actually a legitimate college star.

The NBA thought the Hawks were selecting another James Williams ... before voiding the pick

As reported by the Greenville News (via Secret Base), NBA officials in New York were initially confused when Pat Williams, making his pick from the other end of the phone line (as was the style in those times), said that the Atlanta Hawks were drafting James Williams. That happened to be the real name of Austin Peay Governors star Fly Williams (pictured above dribbling the ball), who, as a college underclassman, was not yet eligible to be drafted. After clarifying that he was, indeed, drafting James Littlejohn Williams, Pat Williams told the league official that his draft pick was from Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital, and that "he's 19 1/2 inches and weighs seven pounds, five ounces."

Needless to say, the pick was voided, and after the official told him to make a serious pick (via The Draft Review), the Hawks GM selected Nebraska's Brendy Lee in the 10th round. As for Fly Williams, the former New York streetball standout averaged 9.4 points while playing for the American Basketball Association's Spirits of St. Louis in the 1974-75 season. Interestingly, he was chosen in the ninth round of the 1976 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, who had Pat Williams, no less, as their GM at that time, though much like your typical ninth-round pick, he never played a minute of NBA basketball.