Cap City, Classic
Every Draft pick will be handed a hat with very special meaning.
by Matt Caputo
Around 1983, the NBA Draft was slowly evolving out of cigar smoke-filled hotel convention rooms into a made-for-TV extravaganza. About that time, some teams began introducing “Draft caps” as a part of the selection ceremony. When the League began issuing caps to each player selected in 1986, it made the baseball cap the most coveted accessory an aspiring basketball player could ever dream of being awarded—save for a championship ring.
“When I was a kid, I had a Timberwolves snapback and I would stand in front of the mirror and pretend I was hearing my name called,” says Jordan Hamilton, a two-year impact scorer at Texas who projects as a late Lottery pick in tonight’s Draft. “I used to put my cap on and hug the air pretending it was my mom. I’ve been dreaming about getting one of those since I was 9 years old.”
Draft hats are professional sports’ equivalent to an academic graduation. Adidas currently produces the NBA caps (and is creating a special 25th anniversary cap that will be on sale at NBAstore.com in a couple months), while Nike, Starter, Puma and more forgotten brands like Sports Specialists all had a go at making them in the past. And despite the changes in brands, designs and styles—from snapback to fitted and back again—the cap continues to come with the guarantee of multiple-millions for the first-round picks who don it. More than that, though, the cap still signifies the culmination of years of hard work.
“Getting a cap is definitely part of the dream.” It’s something that’s really near to my heart. I’ve kept mine and my son has it now,” says Lamar Odom, an NBA champion and Lottery pick of the Los Angeles Clippers in 1999. “It symbolizes the completion of that journey.”