Over the years, we’ve seen NBA franchises completely whiff out on a draft class. At least every team in the league right now has watched a player that they refrained from picking dominate the game. Here, we are going to talk about one of the greatest basketball players to ever step foot onto the court, Michael Jordan. Jordan wasn’t the number one pick in his own draft, and we all know how he turned out. So, who was drafted before Michael Jordan in the NBA Draft?
Who Was Drafted Before Michael Jordan In The NBA Draft? Michael Jordan was drafted third overall in the 1984 NBA Draft, behind Hakeem Olajuwon, number 1 to the Houston Rockets and Sam Bowie, number 2 to the Portland Trailblazers.
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You would think that a player like Jordan wouldn’t fall any further than the number two spot, but he did. You could even give a pass for the Olajuwon pick considering that sometimes the team with the top selection has other needs for their roster.
The Sam Bowie pick still has analysts scratching their heads over why he looked so enticing compared to the young GOAT. This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen a future superstar player get pushed down the draft boards. It’s happened a few times, but Jordan is one of those guys that made those teams regret every second of their choice, rest assured he took it personally.
A brief defense of Portland and Houston
At the time big men were seen as the ultimate foundational building blocks of a winning NBA team. It wasn’t until Jordan himself changed the perception of high volume scoring wings and their ability to directly affect championships that it became more acceptable to take Guards and Small Forwards with the highest draft picks.
Hakeem was an understandable number 1 choice. The center had a monstrous NBA career, crowned by the two titles he won in the 90’s when Jordan stepped away from the league.
Sam Bowie is the less defensible pick. Standing at 7ft1 the University of Kentucky big man showed no small amount of skill during his 5 years in College. Plagued by typical big man injuries it was always a risk to bet so much on him. Portland had got very lucky the year before and selected Clyde Drexler with the 14th pick in the 1983 NBA Draft. It was felt that Bowie would be a better pairing for him than Jordan, who projected as a very similar NBA player to Drexler.
Size and roster building ultimately won out and Jordan would be a Chicago Bull.
Hakeem Olajuwon was absolutely outstanding when he played basketball at the University of Houston. He was able to take his college roster to a place they hadn’t ever been before and scouts were raving about him for a pretty long time leading up to the draft. He was one of those players that everybody expected to go number one overall no matter what. People just loved him that much. Plus, he was an excellent fit with the Houston Rockets back then.
He was a center that locked down the rim and could get any shot he really wanted down low. Who doesn’t want a player like that on their roster? Olajuwon was incredibly successful during his time with the Rockets. He won back-to-back championships at one point throughout his career, illustrating how dominant he was on the floor. Olajuwon was widely viewed as the best center in the game throughout most of his career, and makes this pick entirely worth it. It’s not easy to say something like that regarding a guy that got drafted above Michael Jordan, but Hakeem the Dream happens to be one of the very few exceptions there.
Talk about a swing and a miss. Sam Bowie is the most memorable selection out of the draft but not because of how great it was, rather how bad it was. The Portland Trail Blazers grew enamored with Bowie leading up to the draft. They were able to strike a deal with the Indiana Pacers to send Tom Owens over there in order to get that number two overall pick. When they were on the clock and weighing their options, they realized that they had Clyde Drexler.
Drexler was a fantastic guard that pretty much played the same exact role that Jordan was expected to play coming into the big leagues. This was when they started to direct their scouting efforts at other players on the board. Bowie ended up winning the competition in the Blazers scouting department. He is currently considered one of the largest NBA Draft busts in history and was plagued with the injury bug his entire time in the league. Throughout his career, he averaged 10 points and eight rebounds. While this isn’t horrible, this isn’t what you want a number two overall pick to be doing on the floor, especially in a draft where they could have selected Jordan. It gets worse though, Bowie played just four seasons with the Blazers and made it onto the floor for just 42 percent of those games. It’s unfair to brutalize him because of his unfortunate injuries, but you just have to sit back and wonder what might have been if you’re Portland.
Other Superstars That Were Passed Up On
Michael Jordan isn’t the only star in the NBA to watch himself land further down the draft boards than expected. There are loads of other legendary players that would find themselves being drafted towards the top three in a redraft for their specific year. Starting off with Dennis Rodman. Rodman is arguably the best rebounder to ever grace the hardwood, using his insane hustle and physicality to throw opponents off of their game. Rodman won multiple NBA Championships and even averaged 18.7 rebounds per game one year. Shockingly, Rodman was lifted off of the draft boards until the second round started, being taken with the 27th overall pick this year. Assuming you redraft all the players in this pool with the knowledge we have now, there just isn’t any way Rodman comes even remotely close to this mark. Then another player we have here is Manu Ginobili. Ginobili was the MVP of the Italian League in back-to-back seasons before coming into the NBA. With a resume like that straight away, why wouldn’t you want to jump the gun on him? Apparently, nobody wanted to for one reason or another. Ginobili dropped WAY down in the draft, not getting picked until the 57th selection in 1999 by the San Antonio Spurs. I still can’t fathom the fact that teams thought there were 56 players better than Ginobili in this draft class. The man was a multi-time MVP winner of another professional league at this stage of his career, he’s got to be higher up than this. Ginobili as we know won four NBA Championships with the Spurs to form a beautiful dynasty in the league. He also popularized the euro-step in the league that we watch today. Finally, we have Larry Bird. Bird is considered one of the best shooters of all-time and his trash talking has picked up quite the legendary reputation. The Boston Celtics forward was surprisingly drafted with the sixth overall selection in the draft. It wasn’t just the position that shocked the world, but also the names that were taken before him. They went, Mychal Thompson, Phil Ford, Rick Robey, Michael Ray Richardson and Purvis Short. Remember any of those guys like you do with Bird? That tells you all that you need to know.