Recently, you may have seen some headlines about strange questions that NBA executives asked players at the annual draft combine in Chicago. Most notably, Kansas guard Frank Mason III said that one team asked him how he hopes to die.
“That was crazy,” Mason III said on ESPN’s broadcast of the combine. “I said, ‘In my sleep, because I don’t want to suffer from any pain or anything. I’d just rather be asleep around my son and family.’”
While that has to be one of the darkest and most morbid questions ever asked, every year there are weird ones thrown at prospects. Some questions test the individual’s thinking or creativity. Some try to glean information about the player’s personal life. Some are just… odd.
HoopsHype asked a dozen NBA players – from rookies to veterans – about the most bizarre exchanges they had with a team at the combine or during one of their draft visits. The following are all real questions asked by teams:
If you were the size of a pencil and stuck in a blender, how would you get out?
Several players said they were asked this question. Apparently, this is a question that Google and other Silicon Valley companies have used during interviews, and at least one NBA team has started asking it as well. The idea is to get an understanding of the player’s thinking, creativity, problem-solving, etcetera.
If you were on a train and the conductor died, what would you do?
One player responded, “I said I’d try to drive the train!” How else do you answer this one? “I’d try to resuscitate the conductor?” “I’d see if any other passengers had train-driving experience?”
How many basketballs can fit in this room?
This was another question that multiple players mentioned. These pre-draft interviews between the prospect and executives typically take place in a large hotel conference room, and the team is looking for an estimate that is in the right ballpark.
Why is a manhole cover round?
At the time, the player who was asked this didn’t know the answer. He later Googled it and found out it’s because a circular cover can’t fall through the opening.
Are you the best player we’ll interview today?
This is an interesting question and I think the answer depends on the player. If a projected lottery pick is asked this, the team is certainly hoping he answers “yes” and explains why he feels he’s the best. After all, they want to see his confidence and they’re hoping he will become a star.
But if a late-second-rounder is asked this, a “yes” answer could suggest they don’t know their role and could have trouble riding the bench for much of the season. This basically lets a team understand how a player views himself, and there’s a fine line between having a lot of confidence and having misplaced cockiness. The best answer for a later pick is probably something along the lines of, “I hope so, because I know how much time and effort I’ve put in to get here. And if I’m not the most talented player you interview today, I can at least guarantee I’m the hardest worker.” Teams eat that stuff up.
Can you explain each of your tattoos?
Two players mentioned that they were asked to describe what each of their tattoos mean. Without being in the room, it’s hard to tell the team’s intent. However, it certainly brings back uncomfortable memories of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson telling Cam Newton that they didn’t want him to get any tattoos when they met prior to the draft.
What would the janitor at your school say if I asked him about you?
Not only will teams ask this, they’ll often actually talk to school employees to see how the player acted in high school and college. The player is going to be on his best behavior in front of coaches, scouts and, of course, the NBA executives. But how did he act around the janitor or cafeteria lady when his guard was down and he was interacting with someone who couldn’t help him advance his basketball career?
What’s your favorite strain of weed?
Four separate players say they were asked some variation of this question. Three were asked to specifically name their favorite strain, while another was just asked what kind of pot they liked. One player said he was asked, “Do you prefer to smoke with a bong or a joint?” The team is obviously trying to get the player to admit he smokes weed.
What drink do you order when you’re in the club?
Much like the weed question, they’re trying to see if a player is into drinking and clubbing. (Keep in mind that many of these prospects aren’t 21 years old, so that’s another reason teams will ask this.)
One interesting note about the weed/drink questions: A league source said that these questions aren’t just to see if the player consumes drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, the team has done its homework and already knows that the player smokes or drinks regularly. In that case, they want to see if the player will be honest about it. So not only is, “What’s your favorite strain of weed?” a sneaky way of asking a player if he smokes, it’s a sneaky way of seeing if the player will lie about whether he smokes. Some agents tell their players to be honest when asked these questions rather than giving what’s seemingly the “right answer” because the executives are looking for honesty.
Do you practice safe sex?
This one is surprising because it’s very personal. A league source said this question is asked to see if the player tends to be reckless or responsible.
As you can see, nothing is really off limits when teams are interviewing prospects. They’re often investing millions of dollars into the player they’re selecting, so they’re doing their due diligence – even if that means asking some very bizarre or awkward questions.