Since 1985, the NBA has used a lottery to hype the league's draft. Starting with seven teams, and since expanding to 14, the lottery has both made and ruined teams. Here are the 14 best NBA lottery selections in draft history.
14. Vince Carter
5th pick, 1998, Golden State Warriors
"Air Canada" has never won an NBA championship. He never really even came close until he was dealt to Orlando. Carter admitted to hot-dogging it in Toronto, and often looked as though he cared more about showcasing his talent than winning games. However, his dunk over Frederic Weis in the Olympics, his high-flying acrobatics during NBA game action, and his 2000 Slam Dunk title made him a playground hero. Young basketballers wanted to be like Vince, and for being as exciting to watch as VC was during his heyday, he deserves a spot on the list.
13. Dwyane Wade
5th pick, 2003, Miami Heat
Teamed with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade picked up title No. 2 in the 2011-12 season. While he's no longer the alpha dog in Miami, and his best days may be behind him, Wade was the premier shooting guard in the NBA during his prime. And should his legs hold up, Wade should have several more years as an impact player in him . . . which could mean several more championships in Miami.
12. Paul Pierce
10th pick, 1998, Boston Celtics
Surrounded by mediocre talent and seemingly complete apathy when it came to remaining competitive, Pierce had to stomach a career filled with losing before finally being paired with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007. Boston is again a basketball hot spot, and Pierce remains the face of the franchise. His play during both the 2008 and 2010 postseasons proved he is still among the league's elite, even as a wily veteran.
11. Jason Kidd
2nd pick, 1994, Dallas Mavericks
The modern nightly triple-double threat, Kidd managed to improve his game, in one way or another, every year of his career. First improving his rebounding to elite status among guards, then becoming a winner in New Jersey, and now developing an outside jumper, Kidd has quarterbacked each team he has played for exceptionally, and won an NBA title with Dallas.
10. Allen Iverson
1st pick, 1996, Philadelphia 76ers
Fans thought he was a punk, coaches were run out of town, and the media called him a chucker and a ball hog. Still, barely 6 feet tall, Iverson spearheaded the Sixers' run to relevance, bringing them to the NBA Finals in 2001. Though he never earned a title, his innate scoring abilities rank him among the best slashing point guards in league history.
9. Gary Payton
2nd pick, 1990, Seattle Supersonics
"The Glove" terrorized everyone from Michael Jordan to John Stockton with his tenacious defense. The first point guard on the list, his ability to dish the rock was terrific, too, working with Shawn Kemp to engineer a perennial power out West. Payton couldn't net a title in his prime thanks to Jordan, and saw his career dwindle during its twilight, but still managed an NBA championship with Wade and Shaq in Miami in 2006.
8. Kevin Garnett
5th pick, 1995, Minnesota Timberwolves
Garnett has had an interesting career track, going from explosive, possessed scorer in Minnesota to determined, veteran role player in Boston. In Minnesota, he somehow made basketball relevant, leading a competitive team in the West. In Boston, he joined Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, and showed he still has a killer instinct in winning his first title.
7. Patrick Ewing
1st pick, 1985, Knicks
The original draft prize, Ewing was the first pick of the NBA's first attempt at a lottery. Back then, seven teams each had an equal shot at the first pick. In a conspiracy-filled selection, the Knicks got that first pick. Ewing was supposed to deliver titles to NYC. Instead, he delivered a series of near-misses. Still, he became the face of basketball in the mecca of the sport.
6. David Robinson
1st pick, 1987, San Antonio Spurs
As gifted off-the-court as he was on, Robinson formed one of the best big man-big man tandems in NBA history with fellow lottery pick Tim Duncan. Robinson actually served two years in the Navy following his selection by the Spurs, but clearly didn't miss a beat, leading San Antonio to what at the time was the greatest single-season turnaround in league history in his rookie year. In his final game, "The Admiral" scored 13 points and ripped 17 boards, leading San Antonio to an NBA Finals win over the New Jersey Nets in 2003.
5. LeBron James
1st pick, 2003, Cleveland Cavaliers
James has become the face of the league, lived up to the high school hype, brought excitement back to the NBA and has helped the basketball resurgence across the country. Add in his three titles, and there's no longer any reason to exclude James from conversation about the league's all-time greatest. At this point, James is head-and-shoulders more talented than anyone else in the league.
4. Scottie Pippen
5th pick, 1987, Seattle Supersonics
Here's some trivia to stump your friends: Pippen was drafted by Seattle then dealt to Chicago for Olden Polynice. The move worked out pretty well for Chicago, as Pippen teamed up with MJ as the greatest duo in modern NBA history and won six NBA titles. The selection's ingenuity gets points here, as the players selected right after Pippen included Kenny Smith, Derrick McKey and Polynice - not exactly NBA 50 Greatest Player fodder.
3. Tim Duncan
1st pick, 1997, San Antonio Spurs
Duncan's selection in 1997 showed that championships in the NBA can be built by drafting a core and developing youth. His addition to David Robinson turned San Antonio into a mini-dynasty, with the Spurs making the playoffs out of the Western Conference year after year after year. Duncan has four NBA titles.
2. Shaquille O'Neal
1st pick, 1992, Orlando Magic
Shaq could easily be No. 1 on this list - simply an editorial decision here. O'Neal has served as the dominant center in the league since he was drafted. He transformed from an athletic big man to a bruiser underneath as his career progressed, and was always a match-up nightmare. His pairings with Bryant, then Dwyane Wade, were instrumental in each guard's championship runs.
1. Kobe Bryant
13th pick, 1996, Charlotte Hornets
Bryant never got on the court for the Hornets. Instead, he was dealt to the Lakers for Vlade Divac in a controversial deal. He blossomed into one of the all-time greats. Barely a lottery selection, Kobe first-teamed with Shaquille O'Neal as the most lethal duo since MJ and Pippen, then overcame an ugly split with Shaq to lead the Lakers once again to the promised land. He has 5 NBA titles.