In 1984, the Portland Trail Blazers made one of the most notorious draft mistakes in NBA history by selecting Sam Bowie with the No. 2 pick instead of Michael Jordan, who went on to become the greatest basketball player of all time. However, what many people may not know is that the Blazers had a chance to make the right move.
According to ESPN writer Bill Simmons, legendary Indiana Head Coach Bob Knight, who had coached Jordan during the '84 Olympic trials, urged Blazers GM Stu Inman to select Jordan. Inman's insistence on needing a center led Knight to suggest, "So play him at center!" Unfortunately, Inman didn't take Knight's advice, and the rest is history.
Michael Jordan had already showcased his exceptional talent and leadership skills while playing for Coach Knight on the 1984 USA Olympics Team. The team won the gold medal, with Jordan leading them in scoring with an average of 17.1 points per game. Knight's firsthand experience with Jordan left him immensely impressed.
Meanwhile, Sam Bowie's career was plagued by injuries, and he never achieved All-Star status throughout his ten seasons in the NBA. It later emerged that Bowie had not been entirely forthcoming about his health condition when the Blazers drafted him. He admitted to hiding his pain during medical evaluations, saying, "If what I did was lying and what I did was wrong, at the end of the day, when you have loved ones that have some needs, I did what any of us would have done."
The failure to draft Jordan has haunted the Blazers, particularly considering their lack of championships since 1977. Jordan's arrival transformed the struggling Chicago Bulls into a championship-winning team, securing six titles, six Finals MVPs, and five regular-season MVPs. The Blazers missed out on an opportunity that could have altered the course of their franchise.
The story serves as a reminder of how a single decision can significantly impact a sports organization. If the Blazers had heeded Knight's advice and drafted Jordan, they might have experienced great success. Instead, they remain haunted by the "what if" scenario that lingers over their history.