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What does unicorn mean in the NBA as word takes over draft?

Joshua Rogers June 24, 2022
unicorn meaning nba
Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

What does unicorn mean in the NBA – the word seems to have taken over the 2022 draft?

The NBA Draft takes place tonight (23 June) with the best college athletes and overseas players hoping to make their dreams come true.

Although subject to change, the Orlando Magic have the No.1 overall pick, followed by Oklahoma City, Houston, Sacramento, and Detroit.

Many of these, including the No.2 overall pick in the 2022 Draft, have been described as ‘unicorns’. But what does it mean?

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Unicorn meaning in the NBA explained

Throughout the 2022 NBA Draft, the word ‘unicorn’ kept coming up.

Even the kids know a unicorn is a mythical animal typically represented as a horse with a single straight horn projecting from its forehead. It is also something that is highly desirable but difficult to find or obtain, which is particularly important here.

Because the meaning of unicorn in the NBA refers to those exceptional players who break the mould, a rare specimen who has unique talents and skills that don’t come around often.

They are hard to find – like the mythical creatures of the same name – and combine a number of desirable attributes.

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Examples of unicorns in the NBA

We’ve seen a number of unicorns emerge in the NBA in recent years. The word usually refers to bigger players, rather than guards, and specifically those who can guard all positions, shoot, score, rebound and pass despite their towering frames.

The NBA has truly become a global game in recent years. The likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Kristaps Porzingis are all known as unicorns.

Kristaps, in particular, became closely associated with the word, especially during his New York days.

In fact, the first time Kevin Durant went up against Kristaps Porzingis he labeled the 7ft 3in Latvian a unicorn. A pretty cool compliment given KD also falls under the unicorn category.

“He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, he’s a 7-footer who can shoot all the way out to the 3-point line,” Durant said. “That’s rare. And block shots – that’s like a unicorn in this league.”

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Chet Holmgren is the biggest unicorn in this year’s draft

Gonzaga WCC Defensive Player of the Year Chet Holmgren is the most obvious example of a unicorn in this year’s draft.

Holmgren was selected by the Thunder with the No.2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

The 7ft, 195lb big man has elite perimeter shooting and playmaking ability combined with a defensive presence and the ability to grab a rebound and accelerate up the court with the handles of a guard.

Do you think Holmgren will be a success in the NBA? Let us know in the comments below!

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.