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Ping-Pong playback

National | The NBA was scheduled to hold its draft lottery on May 22, but the results may not matter.

Issue: "Middle East: No easy answers," May 31, 2003

The NBA was scheduled to hold its draft lottery on May 22, but the results may not matter. Sure, the winner of the Ping-Pong ball lottery can now claim LeBron James. But what about the other teams? Recent history suggests that finding a star in the NBA lottery-the somewhat randomly distributed first 13 picks-could be as hit-or-miss as the actual Ping-Pong balls. Legend has it that two draft balls got stuck in the hopper to determine the first pick of the 1992 draft. When everything was sorted out, it was the Orlando Magic's ball that made it to the top-a Ping-Pong ball rendered into Shaquille O'Neal.

But very seldom does the draft yield a sure thing like Mr. O'Neal. And as the door to the NBA has widened to allow a glut of unproven high-schoolers and skilled but unknown foreigners, the risk has grown. As shown below, sometimes the best players drop to the bottom of the lottery. Sometimes the top picks are studs-some are duds. But that's the way the Ping-Pong ball bounces.

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