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12 surprising things I learned from “The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History”

As a sports chronicle, “The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History” is not your father’s Oldsmobile.

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8. Before the NBA decided to streamline its draft of college players, and limit it to two rounds, teams sometimes resorted to long-shot and whimsical picks in the later rounds. The Utah Jazz used a seventh-round choice in 1977 to select Lusia Harris, a college star at Delta State. In 1981, the New Jersey Nets selected the student manager of UCLA’s basketball team on the 10th round. (On the 17th round in 1973, the Cleveland Cavaliers even selected the Monitor’s sports editor, Phil Elderkin, who wrote an NBA column for The Sporting News and was friendly with Cavs’ coach, Bill Fitch).

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9. Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, a practicing Muslim, didn’t let Ramadan’s dawn-to-dusk fasting negatively affect his play in February 1995 when he was named the NBA’s Player of the Month, even though he had observed the dietary restrictions throughout the month.

10. Mark Cuban is probably the ultimate hands-on team owner. When Don Nelson was coach of the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban e-mailed him three or four times a day with suggestions.

11. Shaquille O’Neal not only returned to Louisiana State, his alma mater, to complete his undergraduate degree, he also earned an MBA online from the University of Phoenix.

12. Gregg Popovich, the highly regarded coach of the San Antonio Spurs, first became a head coach at Pomona-Pitzer, a small college in California where his first team went 2-22 and he instructed his brainy players to move their heads “up and down like a sine wave.”

Ross Atkin is a Monitor staff editor.

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