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The 1978 NBA draft was the 32nd annual draft of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The draft was held on June 9, 1978, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, before the 1978-79 season. In this draft, 22 NBA teams took turns selecting amateur U.S. college basketball players and other eligible players, including international players. The first two picks in the draft belonged to the teams that finished last in each conference, with the order determined by a coin flip. The Indiana Pacers won the coin flip and were awarded the first overall pick, while the Kansas City Kings, who obtained the New Jersey Nets' first-round pick in a trade, were awarded the second pick. The Pacers then traded the first pick to the Portland Trail Blazers before the draft. The remaining first-round picks and the subsequent rounds were assigned to teams in reverse order of their win-loss record in the previous season. A player who had finished his four-year college eligibility was eligible for selection. If a player left college early, he would not be eligible for selection until his college class graduated. Before the draft, five college underclassmen were declared eligible for selection under the "hardship" rule. These players had applied and gave evidence of financial hardship to the league, which granted them the right to start earning their living by starting their professional careers earlier. Prior to the start of the season, the Buffalo Braves relocated to San Diego and became the San Diego Clippers. The draft consisted of 10 rounds comprising the selection of 202 players.
Before the draft, Larry Bird had just finished his junior year at Indiana State. However, he was eligible to be drafted without applying for "hardship" because his original college class at Indiana University had graduated. He initially enrolled at Indiana University in 1974 but dropped out before the season began. After sitting out a year, he enrolled at Indiana State. Despite being eligible for the draft, he stated that he would return to college for his senior season. His hometown team, the Indiana Pacers, initially held the first overall pick. However, when they failed to persuade him to leave college early, they traded the first pick to the Blazers, who also failed to convince him into signing. Five teams, including the Pacers who held the third pick, passed on Bird until the Celtics used the sixth pick to draft him. They drafted him even though they knew that they might lose the exclusive rights to him if he didn't sign before the next draft. He could reenter the draft in 1979 and sign with the other team that drafted him, and in negotiations with Red Auerbach Bird's agent Bob Woolf bluntly dismissed Red's lowball salary offers (he said that he would not offer Bird a contract that paid him more than the $400,000 annual salary of the team's highest-paid player at the time, Dave Cowens) and made it clear that Bird would enter the 1979 Draft without any regrets if Boston didn't change its plans. Nevertheless, on April 1979, he signed a five-year, US$3.25-million contract with the Celtics, which made him the highest-paid rookie in the history of team sport at that time.
c 12 On June 8, 1978, the New York Knicks acquired the fourth pick and a 1979 first-round pick from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Phil Jackson, the thirteenth pick and US$3.2-million settlement of their indemnification debt to the Knicks. Previously, the Nets acquired George E. Johnson, the pick and a 1979 first-round pick on September 1, 1977, from the Buffalo Braves in exchange for Nate Archibald. Previously, the Braves acquired the pick and a 1977 first-round pick on October 24, 1976, from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Moses Malone. The Knicks used the pick to draft Micheal Ray Richardson. The Nets used the pick to draft Winford Boynes.
e On November 11, 1977, the Portland Trail Blazers acquired a 1978 first-round pick and a 1979 second-round pick from the Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for Wally Walker. Previously, the Sonics acquired the pick on September 25, 1975, from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Archie Clark. The Blazers used the pick to draft Ron Brewer.
f 12 On December 27, 1977, the Boston Celtics acquired Don Chaney, Kermit Washington and a first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Charlie Scott. On October 13, 1977, the Atlanta Hawks acquired a first-round pick from the New Orleans Jazz in exchange for Joe Meriweather. Previously, the Lakers acquired 1977, 1978 and 1979 first-round picks, and a 1980 second-round pick on August 5, 1976, from the Jazz in exchange for a 1978 first-round pick and a 1977 second-round pick. This trade was arranged as compensation when the Jazz signed Gail Goodrich on July 19, 1976. The Celtics used the pick to draft Freeman Williams. The Hawks used the pick to draft Jack Givens.
g On October 3, 1977, the New Orleans Jazz acquired a first-round pick from the Golden State Warriors as compensation for the signing of E. C. Coleman as a free agent. The Jazz used the pick to draft James Hardy.