Sunday / September 23 / 2012
bill velasco

Given the frustrations of Filipino players in getting into the NBA, this writer searched for more creative (and outrageous and even near-impossible) ways to penetrate the world's best basketball league. There are at least six other ways to make an NBA team, other than just trying out or going straight into the draft. Some methods will admittedly need extreme resources, but if there were no limits, this is what is possible.

Buy an NBA team

If you have $3 billion lying around for a new coliseum, and another $200 million to $300 million to negotiate a franchise, then you could buy your way into the NBA. Then, you could draft or trade for anyone you wanted on your lineup. There may even be circumstances where you could directly hire somebody already considered a pro.

As a team owner, you could put yourself in a uniform easily. (No other team would want you, anyway, conflict of interest notwithstanding.) Or you could save a spot for nine of your buddies. Favoritism knows no bounds. Of course, you'd have to win the lottery or rob a bank first (probably the World Bank or Fort Knox in this case).

Be a coach or director of player personnel

The team owner isn't the only one who decides who gets to sit on the bench. The head coach and/or director of player personnel decides who gets hired. Remember the time Pat Riley stepped out of his office and decided to coach the Miami Heat? The same principle could apply to suiting up for the team. Bill Russell and Bob Cousy have been playing coaches, and influenced not just lineups, but starters and playing time. As a coach, you could say you're best suited to play for the team. And you could probably get away with it, for a while.

Be the sidekick

If you'd be willing to do anything to get into the NBA, you wouldn't mind being somebody's "plus one". One of the most known supposed sidekicks was 6'10" Jack Haley, who was allegedly part of the deal that brought Dennis Rodman to the Chicago Bulls. Haley was a member of the record-setting Bulls squad that won 72 games in the 1995-1996 season. But he only played one game in the regular season and none in the playoffs.

Though he didn't like it, he was referred to as Dennis Rodman's babysitter. To be fair, he spent nine seasons in the league, also suiting up for the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. And like it or not, Haley is an NBA champion. From the bench you're just one sprained ankle or ACL tear from playing time. Opportunity favors the prepared.

The latest instance of friendship impacting NBA employment was Liu Wei. The talented 6'2" guard played alongside his best friend Yao Ming for 10 years in Shanghai. The Sacramento Kings played him in six preseason games in 2004, and used him heavily in the first two NBA China Games against Yao and the Houston Rockets in Shanghai and Beijing. Used primarily as a marketing tool in China, Liu was released prior to the succeeding NBA season.

Get around the rules

There has been a healthy debate the last few years over women playing in the NBA. Commissioner David Stern was quoted as saying that it's possible for women to play in the NBA. History has shown that a few courageous women have gotten through, since the rules have do not mention a specific gender.

In 1977, Lusia Harris was drafted in the seventh round by the New Orleans Jazz, ahead of 33 male players. Selected with the 137th pick, Harris was actually the second woman drafted by an NBA team. In 1969, the San Francisco Warriors selected Denise Long, but that pick was voided by the league. Harris, for her part, said she wasn't interested in playing in the NBA. It was later discovered that she was pregnant at the time.

In 1980, Ann Meyers (now Drysdale) became the first woman to play for an NBA team. The 5'9" member of the US FIBA world champion and 1976 Olympic silver medal teams signed a no-cut, $50,000 contract with the Indiana Pacers. She attended a three-day tryout but was cut from the final lineup. So if you can find your own loophole in the rules, go for it.

Rally for expansion

In March of 2011, representatives for the Sacramento Kings filed for a move to Anaheim. The move didn't push through, but it stirred a discussion for potential new NBA cities. This brought up the conversation for past NBA cities like Seattle, Kansas City and even Vancouver to acquire a team. New hosts like Las Vegas, Mexico City and even London, Paris, Barcelona and Cologne have been mentioned as possibilities, mainly due to population, purchasing power and the presence of existing venues. Being the home of large multinational corporations who sponsor sports heavily is another factor.

More teams, bigger draft. Bigger draft, more roster spots. More roster spots means better chances of getting drafted, especially for a team quickly needing to fill up a lineup. Of course, you won't be on a winning team, but let's take it one step at a time.

Enter the draft, don't get drafted

Hear me out first. If you don't get drafted, you could lobby a key decision-maker on your target team to try out or be part of an expanded lineup. Maybe you could play for next to nothing, or offer to do other things for the team, too. Or maybe sign a 10-day contract if there are a lot of injured players. Maybe they need a scrub point guard who won't turn the ball over in a blowout, and who'd do it for minimum wage or season tickets.

If you'd do whatever it takes just to put on an NBA uniform, you may consider becoming an NBA star's new best friend, it could be the easiest – and cheapest – way to gain admission into the league.

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