Since 1976, the last pick in the NFL draft has been referred to — with tongue firmly planted in cheek — as “Mr. Irrelevant.” The dubious honor even comes with some hardware, “The Lowsman Trophy,” a play on the Heisman with the player fumbling a football.
The NBA’s version of Mr. Irrelevant has changed quite a bit over the years. The most recent king of irrelevancy is Brooklyn draft property, as the Nets selected Cory Jefferson with the 60th and final selection in the 2014 draft with a pick that they bought from the San Antonio Spurs. The 6’9″ Baylor product has a legitimate chance to make the Nets roster, and if he does he would be the third Mr. Irrelevant in four years to make the NBA following Isaiah Thomas (2011, Kings) and Robert Sacre (2012, Lakers).
It hasn’t always been number 60. From 1948 to 1986, the draft did not have a limited number of rounds, with teams picking until they did not want to pick any longer. This system produced Mr. Irrelevants like Willie Horton — no, not THAT Willie Horton — in the 21st round of the 1968 draft, and Steve Martin — not that Steve Martin either — with the 202nd overall pick in the 1979 draft. Like virtually all Mr. Irrelevants of this era, neither ever played in the NBA.
The NBA drafts of yesteryear were so long that Carl Lewis — actually, yes, THAT Carl Lewis — was drafted 208th overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1984, despite never playing high school or college basketball. But even with basketball absent on his CV, the ten-time Olympic medalist in track and field wasn’t Mr. Irrelevant, as 20 players were taken after.
The probability of a Mr. Irrelevant making an NBA roster increased exponentially as the NBA draft was curtailed to seven rounds in 1987, then three rounds in 1988, and finally the current two-round system in 1989. While more Mr. Irrelevants have made NBA rosters since the late 1980s, their relevancy has not increased all that greatly, with only one player averaging over 7 points per game in an NBA uniform.
In honor of Mr. Jefferson, let’s look at the non-illustrious history of the top three “Mr.Irrelevants” in NBA history.