The 1956 NBA draft was the tenth annual draft of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The draft was held on April 30, 1956, before the 1956–57 season. In this draft, eight NBA teams took turns selecting amateur U.S. college basketball players. In each round, the teams select in reverse order of their win–loss record in the previous season, except for the defending champion and runner-up, who were assigned the last two pick on each round. The draft consisted of 10 rounds comprising 92 players selected.
|1956 NBA draft|
|Date(s)||April 30, 1956|
|Location||New York City, New York|
|92 total selections in 14 rounds|
|Territorial pick(s)||Tom Heinsohn, Boston Celtics|
|First selection||Sihugo Green, Rochester Royals|
Sihugo Green from Duquesne University was selected first overall by the Rochester Royals. Tom Heinsohn from the College of the Holy Cross was selected before the draft as Boston Celtics' territorial pick. Heinsohn went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award in his first season. Bill Russell from the University of San Francisco was selected second overall by the St. Louis Hawks and immediately traded to the Boston Celtics for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan. Three players from this draft, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Russell, and K. C. Jones, have been inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Elgin Baylor and Sam Jones, who were selected by the Minneapolis Lakers in the later rounds, have also been inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame, although they did not enter the league immediately after the draft. In the 1957 draft, Sam Jones was selected in the first round by the Boston Celtics, with whom he played for in his whole career. In the 1958 draft, Elgin Baylor was selected first overall by the Lakers, with whom he played for in his whole career.
|T||–||Tom Heinsohn^||F/C||United States||Boston Celtics||Holy Cross|
|1||1||Sihugo Green||G/F||United States||Rochester Royals||Duquesne|
|1||2||Bill Russell^||C||United States||St. Louis Hawks (traded to Boston)[a]||San Francisco|
|1||3||Jim Paxson||G/F||United States||Minneapolis Lakers||Dayton|
|1||4||Ronnie Shavlik||F||United States||New York Knicks||NC State|
|1||5||Joe Holup||F||United States||Syracuse Nationals||George Washington|
|1||6||Ron Sobieszczyk||G||United States||Fort Wayne Pistons (traded to New York)[b]||DePaul|
|1||7||Hal Lear||G||United States||Philadelphia Warriors||Temple|
|2||8||Bob Burrow||F/C||United States||Rochester Royals||Kentucky|
|2||9||Willie Naulls+||F/C||United States||St. Louis Hawks||UCLA|
|2||10||Terry Rand#||C||United States||Minneapolis Lakers||Marquette|
|2||11||Gary Bergen||C||United States||New York Knicks||Utah|
|2||12||Paul Judson#||F||United States||Syracuse Nationals||Illinois|
|2||13||K. C. Jones^||G||United States||Boston Celtics||San Francisco|
|2||14||Bob Kessler#||F||United States||Fort Wayne Pistons||Maryland|
|2||15||Phil Rollins||G||United States||Philadelphia Warriors||Louisville|
|3||16||Dave Piontek||F/C||United States||Rochester Royals||Xavier (OH)|
|3||18||Jerry Bird||F||United States||Minneapolis Lakers||Kentucky|
|3||20||Forest Able||G||United States||Syracuse Nationals||Western Kentucky|
|3||22||Bill Thieben||F/C||United States||Fort Wayne Pistons||Hofstra|
|4||24||Johnny McCarthy||G||United States||Rochester Royals||Canisius|
|4||28||Swede Halbrook||C||United States||Syracuse Nationals||Oregon State|
|4||29||Dan Swartz||F||United States||Boston Celtics||Morehead State|
|5||33||Norm Stewart||F||United States||St. Louis Hawks||Missouri|
|5||36||Jim Ray||G||United States||Syracuse Nationals||Toledo|
|6||42||Phil Jordon||F/C||United States||Minneapolis Lakers||Whitworth|
|6||43||Pat Dunn||G||United States||New York Knicks||Utah State|
|7||50||John Barber||F||United States||Minneapolis Lakers||Cal State L.A.|
|10||74||Bob Hopkins||F/C||United States||Syracuse Nationals||Grambling|
|14||90||Elgin Baylor^||F||United States||Minneapolis Lakers[c]||Seattle|
William Bernard Thieben (born March 28, 1935) is a retired American professional basketball player. He played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1956–57 and the Detroit Pistons in 1957–58 (the franchise was moved between the two seasons). He was selected in the 1956 NBA draft by the Fort Wayne Pistons.Bob Kessler
Robert “R” Kessler is an American former college basketball standout for the Maryland Terrapins. He played for the school for three seasons, from 1953–54 to 1955–56, and scored 1,266 points and grabbed 849 rebounds in his career. Kessler was named to the All-ACC Second Team in his final two seasons while averaging over 20 points per game each year. He led the Terrapins in rebounding both seasons, and after his collegiate career was over, Kessler was selected as the 14th overall pick in the 1956 NBA draft by the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. He never played in the league, however. Later on he would get enshrined into the University of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the 2007 class. He is currently a scout for Cheyenne East High School in Cheyenne, WY, USA.Charlie Slack
Charles E. "Charlie" Slack is an American former college basketball standout from the Marshall University. He holds the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I record for the highest single-season rebound average when he grabbed 25.6 rpg in 1954–55.Considered the greatest rebounder in college basketball history, he had his Marshall
uniform number (#17) retired in January 2000. In his four-year career with the Thundering Herd, from 1952–53 to 1955–56, Slack compiled 1,916 career rebounds, which is third all-time behind Tom Gola's 2,201 and Joe Holup's 2,030. Additionally, Slack's effort of 43 rebounds against Charleston (West Virginia) on January 12, 1954 is the second highest single game rebound total in NCAA history behind Bill Chambers' 51. Slack owns the top four spots on Marshall's season rebounding average list with 25.6, 23.6, 22.2 and 16.3 rebounds per game. A prodigious rebounder, he also scored 1,551 points during his career.Although he was drafted by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1956 NBA Draft, he never played professionally. He was, however, an alternate for the 1960 United States men's basketball team at the Olympics. Slack was also a member of the varsity football team and was inducted into the Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1985 as a two-sport star.Forest Able
Forest Edward "Frosty" Able (born July 27, 1932) is a retired American basketball player.
A 6'3" (1.90 m) guard, Able attended Fairdale High School in Louisville before starring at Western Kentucky University in the early 1950s, where he tallied 1,221 career points. Afterwards, he had a brief stint with the Syracuse Nationals, who selected him in the 1956 NBA draft. Forest is a member of the Western Kentucky University Hall of Fame.Gary Bergen
Gary Dean Bergen (July 16, 1933 - July 27, 2010) was an American basketball player. He played collegiately for the University of Utah. Bergen was selected by the New York Knicks in the 1956 NBA Draft. He played for the Knicks (1956–57) in the NBA for 6 games. Bergen died on July 27, 2010.Hal Lear
Not to be confused with Hal Greer, another basketball player.
Harold C. "Hal" Lear, Jr. (January 31, 1935 – June 25, 2016) was an American basketball player.
A 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) guard born in Philadelphia, Lear starred at Temple University in his hometown during the 1950s. He earned the NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 1956 after leading Temple to the Final Four, where they lost to the University of Iowa.After college, Lear was selected by the Philadelphia Warriors with the seventh pick of the 1956 NBA draft. His NBA career was brief, however: he appeared in just three games during the 1956–57 NBA season and scored four points.In 2013, Temple retired his No. 6 jersey. Lear died on June 25, 2016 at his home in White Plains, New York after an illness.Jerry Bird
Jerry Lee Bird (February 3, 1934 – July 16, 2017) was an American basketball player. Born in Corbin, Kentucky, he played collegiately for the University of Kentucky. He was selected by the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1956 NBA draft and played eleven NBA games for the New York Knicks (1958–59).Jim Ray (basketball)
James E. Ray (born January 12, 1934) is an American former professional basketball player. Ray was selected in the 1956 NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals after a collegiate career at Toledo.Joe Belmont
Joseph Elliott Belmont (July 12, 1934 – January 6, 2019) was an American basketball player and coach. He played college basketball at Duke University, and was selected in the 1956 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia Warriors. He never played in the NBA, however. He had a long playing career with the Denver-Chicago Truckers of the National Industrial Basketball League.
In 1970, he was hired as the head coach of the American Basketball Association's Denver Rockets, a position he held for as season and a half. He shared ABA Coach of the Year honors in 1970 with Bill Sharman of the Utah Stars.
In 2005 Belmont was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.Joe Holup
Joseph J. Holup (February 26, 1934 – January 28, 1998) was an American professional basketball player.
A 6'6' forward, Holup starred at George Washington University from 1953 to 1956. He tallied 2,226 points and 2,030 rebounds in 104 varsity games, and led the NCAA in rebounds per game (25.6) during the 1955–56 season. Holup held George Washington's record for most career points until 2003, when he was surpassed by Chris Monroe.After college, Holup was selected with the fifth overall pick of the 1956 NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals. He played three seasons in the NBA with the Nationals and Detroit Pistons, averaging 7.0 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game.Holup died in Rexford, New York in 1998.Johnny McCarthy
John Joseph McCarthy (born April 25, 1934) is an American former basketball player and coach. A 6'1" guard, he played college basketball and was an All-American at Canisius College. He was selected by the Rochester Royals in the 1956 NBA draft. He played a total of six seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA)—two for the Royals, three for the St. Louis Hawks, and one for the Boston Celtics.
McCarthy is the first of only four players in NBA history to record a triple-double in his playoff debut, with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against the Minneapolis Lakers on March 16, 1960; he was later joined by Magic Johnson in 1980, LeBron James in 2006 and Nikola Jokic in 2019.
McCarthy later coached the Buffalo Braves, his hometown team, for part of a season.Milt Graham
Milton Russell Graham (born July 28, 1934) was an American and Canadian football player who played for the Ottawa Rough Riders. He won the Grey Cup with Ottawa in 1960. Graham played college football at Colgate University and was drafted in the 1956 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears (Round 14, #167). He also played basketball at Colgate, after which he was also drafted in the 13th round of the 1956 NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers), but focused on football instead. He later played in American Football League for the Boston Patriots.Pat Dunn (basketball)
Patrick L. "Pat" Dunn (March 17, 1931 – November 11, 1975) was an American professional basketball player. Dunn was selected in the 1956 NBA draft by the New York Knicks after a collegiate career at Utah State. In one season, which he played for the Philadelphia Warriors, Dunn averaged 2.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game.Paul Judson
Paul Judson (born April 10, 1934) is a former American basketball player. He was selected as the twelfth pick in the 1956 NBA draft, but did not play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).Phil Rollins
Phil Lee Rollins (born January 19, 1934) is an American former professional basketball player. Rollins was selected in the 1956 NBA draft by the Philadelphia Warriors after a collegiate career at Louisville. As a senior in 1955–56 he helped lead the Cardinals to a National Invitation Tournament championship.
In Rollins' five-year professional career, most of which was spent in the NBA (his final season was in the American Basketball League), he played for five different teams. In NBA games only, Rollins averaged 5.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.His brother, Ken, starred at the University of Kentucky before starting a professional basketball career. Ken was also a member of the 1948 NCAA and Olympic Gold Medal teams.Robert Kessler
Not to be confused with Bob Kessler, a 1956 NBA draft selection by the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons.Robert Louis Kessler (November 25, 1914 – September 5, 2001) was standout basketball player at Purdue University in the NCAA and then with the Indianapolis Kautskys in the National Basketball League (NBL).
Kessler was from Anderson, Indiana and attended Anderson High School where he graduated in 1932. He then enrolled at Purdue and played on the men's varsity basketball team for his final three years under future Hall of Fame coach Ward Lambert. Kessler was a two-time All-American (1935–36), and as a senior he became Purdue's first ever consensus All-American.
After college, Kessler played professionally for three seasons in the NBL for the Indianapolis Kautskys. He was named the league's Rookie of the Year in 1937–38, although Kessler's teams never once qualified for the postseason. In his later life, Kessler worked at General Motors and eventually became its vice president.Robin Freeman (basketball)
Robin R. Freeman (April 8, 1934 – September 23, 2014) was an American basketball player who was a two-time All-American at Ohio State University.
Freeman, a 5'11 guard from Hughes High School in Cincinnati, set an Ohio state high school scoring mark of 39.5 points per game as a senior in 1951–52.Robin Freeman played at OSU from 1953–56, has been called one of the most exciting players in Buckeye history. He broke out as a junior in 1954–55, scoring at a 31.5 point per game clip. His season was limited to just 13 games due to a variety of health issues, but Freeman was still named a Consensus second team All-American at the season's end. He picked up where he left off as a senior, averaging 32.9 points per contest (good for second in the nation behind Furman's Darrell Floyd). Freeman became Ohio State's first repeat All-American and the first player in Big Ten history to average 30+ points per game in back to back years. Freeman was also named Big Ten MVP by the Chicago Tribune.Following the conclusion of his Ohio State career, Freeman was selected in the 1956 NBA draft by the Saint Louis Hawks. However, he never played in the NBA, as he severed the tips of two fingers while chopping wood. He instead attended law school and practiced law in Springfield, Ohio.He is a member of the Ohio basketball Hall of Fame and the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame.
Freeman died on September 23, 2014.Sihugo Green
Sihugo "Si" Green (August 20, 1933 – October 4, 1980) was an American professional basketball player who was born in New York City, New York. After playing at Duquesne University, Green was the No. 1 pick of the 1956 NBA draft by the Rochester Royals.Willie Naulls
William Dean Naulls (October 7, 1934 – November 22, 2018) was an American professional basketball player for 10 years in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was a four-time NBA All-Star with the New York Knicks and won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics.
Naulls grew up in California, where he was named the state's Mr. Basketball in high school. He played college basketball with the UCLA Bruins, and earned All-American honors as a senior in 1956. Naulls was selected by the St. Louis Hawks (known now as the Atlanta Hawks) with the ninth overall pick of the 1956 NBA draft. He played briefly with St. Louis before being traded to New York, where he spent most of his career. With the Knicks, he became the first African American to be named a captain of a professional team in a major American sport. After a brief stint with the San Francisco Warriors (now the Golden State Warriors), Naulls finished his career with Boston. In December 1964, he was part of a Celtics unit that became the first all-black starting lineup in NBA history.