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Meet the Hat Lady

For Chrysa Chin, every draft pick is a head case

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Chrysa Chin and Pavel Podkolzin
Chin escorted Pavel Podkolzin to the stage last year.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

By Ben Reiter

After the Bucks' first overall pick -- probably Utah's Andrew Bogut -- hears commissioner David Stern call his name at Tuesday's NBA draft, the last person he'll see before facing the klieg lights will be Chrysa Chin. Since 1998 Chin, 42, the NBA's director of player programs, has given each of the 15 to 17 draft picks invited to the event a cap of the team that took him. "If you have the hat, the deal is done," says Chin. "You've been drafted."

Chin goes to the NBA's predraft camp -- "Players say, 'There's the hat lady,'" she says -- and briefs attendees on how to sport the caps. ("Above the brow so we can see your face on camera.") On draft day she's a counselor, too. "When it's down to the last one or two players, they get afraid," says Chin. "You encourage them and say, 'Look, you were invited to the draft. Your name is going to be called.'"

Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves needed no encouragement in 2000. He was so thrilled to be drafted 14th by Detroit, he hugged Chin when she gave him his hat -- and wouldn't let go. "I had to take his arm from around me," she says. And though Steve Francis was famously sullen after going to the lowly Grizzlies in '99, he thought fondly of Chin. "I saw him later that year," she says. "I thought he might not remember me. But he said, 'How could I forget the lady who gave me my hat?'"

Issue date: June 27, 2005