On This Date: Knicks draft Micheal Ray Richardson

June 9th 1978: The New York Knicks draft Micheal Ray Richardson with the 4th overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft

To a shock of a few people in Knicks land, the team drafted Micheal “Sugar” Ray Richardson with the 4th overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft. The Knicks went into the draft looking for a center, a need glaring since Willis Reed’s retirement in 1974, and set their eyes on Rick Robey. However, the Indiana Pacers drafted Robey with the 3rd overall pick and the Knicks pivoted to Richardson afterwards.

After a solid rookie season, Richardson immediately thrusted into a perennial All-Star with the Knicks. He had a penchant for gathering triple double1 and stealing the ball with gusto. However, a combination of on-court and off-the court issues, including an excessive drug and partying habit, led the Knicks to trade him for Bernard King. Ironically, King recently recovered from an alcohol problem that plagued him during his early seasons with the Nets & Jazz.

One of the biggest regrets out of the draft obviously was what if the Knicks drafted Larry Bird instead of Sugar Ray. It’s important to note that at Bird intended to finish his collegiate career at Indiana. Many teams, including the Knicks weren’t willing to wait a year for Bird. At the time, teams had one full calendar to sign a player drafted in the previous season before the draft rights relinquished. The Celtics decided to wait for Bird to finish his senior year and signed him a week before the NBA Draft to a 5 year $3.25 million contract. The NBA subsequently changed the draft rules where teams were barred from drafting players before they were ready to sign. Essentially, collegiate players lost eligibility once the withdrawal date (May 29th in this draft) passed.

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