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How the 1984 NBA draft changed basketball forever
by Filip Bondy / June 25, 2008

This excerpt is taken from the new book, How the 1984 NBA Draft Changed Basketball Forever, written by Filip Bondy. It can be found in bookstores or online at Amazon.com.

Considering the enormous stakes at hand, the 1984 NBA draft telecast on USA Network was a relatively bare-bones affair. The draft itself took place on June 19, 1984, inside what was then called the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden, corner of Eighth Avenue and Thirty-Third Street in Manhattan.

The draft had once been a very nearly private affair, conducted on a giant conference call among commissioner Lawrence O’Brien and team officials. Then it moved and for several years was held in a hotel ballroom. Now it was being staged inside an arena seating thousands. The place was not well lit and not particularly well attended, either by team officials or by the national media. Even those crazy fans known as draftniks did not quite fill the seats. The draftniks were nerds, for sure, but they did their homework and had one hard and fast rule for franchise executives: a team should always pick the best athlete, the most passionate dazzler available.

To choose by position or need was considered utter folly and in some ways a betrayal of all that was true and good about the sport of basketball. And if the draftniks’ approach sounded a bit too simplistic, it often proved dead right in the short and long run. Just a year earlier, eleven teams with the thirteen top picks had passed on Clyde Drexler, a player beloved by draftniks everywhere for his sheer, physical talent. And at this 1984 draft, Michael Jordan was number 1 on their list. The crowd buzzed about the North Carolina stud. Eyes rolled at the notion Jordan might not be one of the top two picks. Less cerebrum, more gut was clearly required from the men in charge.

The Houston management team was one of the few groups there in force, because this was the Rockets’ show. A rather tacky “MillerTime” banner adorned the stage. A bespectacled, mustachioed David Stern would be the host and chief merrymaker. The league held a pre-draft party, playing host to rookies and their families at a small Italian restaurant near the Garden. Olajuwon was forced into a constant crouch at the place because the ceiling was too low for him. Then it was broadcast time, and Stern was ready. This was his first televised public appearance as the new commissioner on a grand scale, but he was not that nervous.

Stern kept reminding himself that his predecessor, Lawrence O’Brien, had emceed the draft before, though it was from a hotel ballroom before a much smaller audience.

“I think I got over my nerves by then,” Stern recalled. I tried to keep it all in perspective. As soon as I became commissioner that February, Dan Patrick, who was the CNN anchor then, said, “We’re going out on the street to ask people if they know who David Stern is.” And he asked them whether I was the violinist Stern, or the radio shock jock Stern, and they didn’t know. They had no idea. After that public humiliation, I knew my place. And then I was on a talk radio debate with Art Rust, Jr., an African-American, who did a show asking whether the NBA was too black. So I was battle tested. Maybe I was still nervous in front of a lot of people. But I just kept thinking the camera there was showing us to an audience of about zero back then."

Nearly all the twenty-three franchises set up headquarters in their home cities far away, most often in hotel rooms, and kept an open phone line to their representatives sitting in the Felt Forum next to corresponding team logos. USA Network featured a play-by-play guy, Al Albert, and a couple of color men, Eddie Doucette and Lou Carnesecca, the local St. John’s coaching legend. Steve Jones was “in the pit.”

There was a special live feed to Bloomington, where several of the draftees were practicing with the U.S. national team, in training for pre-Olympic exhibitions against NBA All-Star teams who were doubling as the Washington Generals. Things were clearly changing. There were nine undergraduates available in this draft, and Olajuwon was about to become the fourth non-senior in six years to be the number 1 draft pick. Still, these athletes were not kids. They were polished enough to make an immediate impact, for whichever team drafted them.

Scampering about the place, as always, was the omnipresent Marty Blake, super scout. Blake was the ultimate character, a chronic gym rat of the first order. He had been connected with the league already for about thirty years and would be around for many decades to come. Back in 1984, before all the game films, he was by far the most reliable source of information, other than an eyewitness scouting mission. If you were a reporter or a general manager, and you had questions about the draft, you would go to Marty, and he would give you an answer, even if he didn’t really have one.

Blake admitted to only the occasional fabrication, like the time somebody drafted an unknown Eastern European, a guy even Blake hadn’t heard about, and he simply started making up generic facts: “Big, strong, not a great ballhandler, surprising touch...” Blake almost always knew the real skinny, though. He scouted and established contacts everywhere, in every dark corner of the globe, and he took his greatest pleasures in his most obscure finds in America and overseas.

Over the years, he would be credited with discovering small-college stars Scottie Pippen (Central Arkansas), Dennis Rodman (Southeastern Oklahoma State), and Dan Majerle (Central Michigan). One contact would lead to another and another. Blake uncovered one player back in the ’50s, JP Lovelady of Arkansas Tech, a sure thing, but he died in a car accident. At the funeral Blake met Arch Jones, who became athletic director at Central Arkansas. Years later, Jones was the one who called Blake and tipped him off about Pippen.

Blake figured this 1984 draft was top-heavy with amazing talent among the first fifteen picks before it thinned out quickly. He could give you the odds on these kids making it, round by round, because Blake studied the numbers. Of the 175 players drafted in the first round from 1976 through 1983, 144 of them had played at least four years in the NBA, a good measuring stick of success. That represented a hang-in-there percentage of .823. That percentage dropped to .342 in the second round, to .160 in the third, to .068 in the fourth, .029 in the fifth, .017 in the sixth, .018 in the seventh. Only one player drafted in the eighth round had sustained a four-year career, while none had done so from the ninth or tenth rounds.

More than twenty years later, Blake would go through his paperwork and find his limited list of impact prospects from 1984 ranked this way, by position:

Centers: Olajuwon, Bowie.

“I never liked Turpin,” Blake said.

Power forwards: Bowie, Perkins, Barkley (“He wasn’t fat, he was an artist.”), Otis Thorpe, Tim McCormick, Michael Cage.

Small forwards: Jordan, Kenny Fields, Tony Campbell, Michael Young, Jeff Turner.

Shooting guard: Jordan, Lancaster Gordon, Vern Fleming, Terrence Stansbury.

Point guard: Alvin Robertson, Jay Humphries, Stockton. (“This was a very thin year for playmakers.”)

At the time, like most others, Blake subscribed to the theory that big was ultimately better.

“Never take a flea if you can take a giant,” was what Bob Cousy had once told Blake, and he never forgot. “You get a great center once every twenty-two and a half years, so you better take advantage of it,” Blake said.

More than anything, Blake understood that there was no pure science in this scouting and drafting. People made mistakes, big mistakes. The teams didn’t have that much funding for scouting, so there was a lot of guesswork. And then there was the matter of pure, dumb luck good or bad. Nobody was really an infallible expert on anything. A guy could write three books on marriage just before his wife left him.

Blake had another saying he used a lot about the random and rueful nature of life, about how those things could sabotage even God’s chosen people back in Old Testament times: “If Moses had gone to his left, they’d have got the oil, not the sand.”

At the Felt Forum on June 19, 1984, USA Network was introducing its broadcast with typical zeal. The voice-over screamed that “six bona fide superstars will be going,” leaving the audience to figure out who, exactly, that might be after Olajuwon, Bowie, Jordan, Perkins, and Barkley. Was Mel Turpin a superstar? Apparently. Surely nobody had conferred such status on John Stockton not yet. The network analysts also predicted that four centers and twelve power forwards would go in the first round, suggesting team officials were basing these picks on the successful model of the giant-sized Boston Celtics. People were reminded that the 76ers had three first-round picks, while the Knicks, Denver, Seattle, and Golden State had none, and that all sixty-nine of the first-round picks over the past three years were still playing in the league. Guaranteed contracts were likely to assure that, in any sport.

The announcers did their best to drum up enthusiasm, which seemed justified. Carnesecca called this, “a great day for basketball,” and Doucette called this corps of players, “a smorgasbord, the crème de la crème.” There were some awkward moments early on as they waited for something to happen, and Carnesecca begged, “Get me some Gatorade, some soda.” Then, the Lone Ranger theme sounded. At last, David Stern stepped to the mike and gave his opening remarks.

The first pick was given, Olajuwon, the seven-foot center from Houston, to Houston. Olajuwon rose from his seat, wearing a black suit, white shirt, red bowtie. He walked to the stage, a big smile on his face, shaking hands. He was handed a number 34 jersey. Carnesecca, still thinking like an opposing coach, said it was a good thing Olajuwon had only started playing basketball five years ago. “Thank God, he’d be unbelievable,” Carnesecca said.

Olajuwon was positively beaming, a study in the purest sort of joyous expectation.

“This is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Olajuwon said. “My mom and dad flew in from Nigeria. I wanted them to see what’s going on in the United States. I’m just very lucky to stay in Houston.”

Olajuwon talked a bit about receiving eloquent advice from monosyllabic Moses Malone, which was hard to picture, and then he said he looked forward to playing in the Twin Towers setup with Ralph Sampson.

“That’s a good combination. I can’t wait.”

He drew a line right there, however. Minutes after getting drafted, he pretty much told the world, and Bill Fitch, that he was the Rockets’ center, that Sampson was now a power forward.

“I think I like to play in the paint,” Olajuwon said.

Fitch had the same idea, anyway. Ray Patterson gave a ringing endorsement of this notion as well.

“There is no question both those players can play together, and I’d like to add Rodney McCray can play together, too.”

Patterson was asked whether he would trade either guy.

“Can you think of anything that can pry them away?” he said.

The clock was running, and now it was time for one of the biggest mistakes in the history of sports to occur in clear public sight and earshot.

Portland selects Sam Bowie, University of Kentucky,” said Stern.

The commissioner generally used the whole franchise name at these affairs, including the nickname. He shorthanded this one, turned basketball’s worst blunder into a very brief pronouncement. It was as if Stern, with great prescience, had wanted to speak the words quickly, sweep this disastrous pick under the rug for Inman’s sake. The crowd knew better than the Blazers. The draftniks booed the choice. The announcers came to the defense of this disaster.

“He’ll fit in with Jack Ramsay,” Carnesecca predicted.

Al Albert added, assuredly, “There’s no doubt he’s recovered from those two years he sat out with stress fractures.”

Later, though, the commentators were admitting that this was not quite a no-brainer, that perhaps something might go awry. Carnesecca called the Bowie pick “a calculated risk,” and Albert said there were “questions whether they should go with great talent,” which of course would be Jordan, about to become pick number 3.

Bowie walked to the stage wearing a gray suit, purple tie.

“I had a two-year layoff,” Bowie said. “If I didn’t have the support of the community of Lexington and state of Kentucky I wouldn’t be able to do it. Thanks a lot, Coach Hall. Mom, I made it.”

Bowie was immediately interrogated on the frailty of his legs.

“They gave me a seven-hour physical,” he said, meaning the Blazers’staff. “They didn’t leave anything out. I don’t know if that was referring to Bill Walton. He had a stress fracture.”

Like Olajuwon, Bowie already had ideas make that a strong opinion of how he might be implemented in Portland.

“I think they’re thinking of moving Mychal Thompson to forward and me at center,” he said.

Now, at last, there was a buzz in the Felt Forum, some real electricity. Two low-level Bulls’ officials were on the phone to Rod Thorn in Chicago, in what passed for a few seconds of suspense.

“Everybody’s excited about that one,” Carnesecca commented, pre-viewing the inevitable Jordan pick. “He captures the imagination.”

Stern officially pronounced the marriage that would change everything, that soon would make sneakers cost $100.

“The Chicago Bulls pick Michael Jordan,” Stern said.

The place broke out in wild cheers.

“This man is a can’t miss, whether at the guard spot or forward,” Albert shouted, above the din.

Carnesecca called Jordan, “A great creator in the mold of Dr. J ... a people’s player. He’s going to help my man, Kevin Loughery, right away.”

Jordan was one of those players in Bloomington with Knight, who really didn’t care one way or the other what USA Network wanted from his training schedules. His guys were set to practice that day, and they would stick to the original plan. If this had been twenty years later, Jordan surely would have been on a video conference within seconds. But back then, Knight was very much in charge, and he wasn’t about to let go. With the pro futures of all these players on the line, with their minds on the draft back in NewYork, Knight would not budge.

“We couldn’t even see the draft,” Perkins recalled. “Then after practice, we went to a broadcast station to find out where we got drafted. By the time we were through the door, we kind of heard where we’d went. We didn’t have the traditional going-on-stage event.”

Jordan was not immediately available, and there was hardly time to consider the weight of this moment. The pick was made, and he would be interviewed whenever it was convenient, later in the show. By now, most insiders understood that the number 4 pick was clearly going to be Sam Perkins. It was something Dean Smith knew long ago. But there was still some debate among the announcers whether the Dallas Mavericks would choose Turpin from Kentucky or Perkins from North Carolina.

“Either way, you can’t go wrong,”Carnesecca said. “Turpin’s a banger. Perkins is more like a surgeon.”

The pick was Perkins.

“He’s able to play two positions for Dallas,” Carnesecca said.

In the course of just four years, the Mavericks would have eight first-round picks, and Carnesecca made a prediction right then that never came true: Dallas was destined to become “a great dynasty, like Boston or the Lakers.”

The Sixers were next up, with the number 5 pick they got in the deal with the San Diego Clippers for World B. Free. Quickly they chose the SEC player of the year, Charles Barkley.

“He can score,” Carnesecca said. “They’ll bring him along slowly.”

The draftniks approved, heartily. Here was a colorful soul, a kindred spirit. Barkley was in attendance at the Felt Forum broadcast, wearing a maroon suit, ready for some face time. He was beaming, reaching out, and shaking hands with Stern. You would never have guessed he was cursing under his breath. Everybody was talking about his weight, throwing around numbers, how he was listed at 272 pounds, how Knight wanted him down to 215. They mentioned that Barkley once said, “I don’t eat a lot ... just all the time.”

It was the humble Barkley on stage this day, though, the self-effacing Barkley.

“They already have a great team,” he said of Philadelphia. “Hopefully, they’ll play me at the power forward position.”

Sensing this comment might seem a little brash, he quickly said he intended to “learn a lot from Marc Iavaroni,” one of the more disingenuous comments ever uttered by Barkley in his long playing career.

Barkley had more moves in twenty four seconds then Iavaroni had in a season. On another delicate matter, Barkley said he didn’t blame Bobby Knight at all for cutting him from the Olympic team.

“No sir, it was my inability to play defense,” Barkley said. “We played primarily zone at Auburn.”

When the issue of his weight was broached, Barkley seemed honestly concerned, almost hurt.

“I get a lot of talk about my weight. I don’t worry about what people say about my weight. I’m going to try to play around 260, 265.”

Barkley thanked God. He thanked his mother and grandmother, “the two greatest ladies on earth.” There was so much to ask him, so little time. The clock was ticking down, and the Washington Bullets were about to choose Turpin, beginning one of the more painfully embarrassing few minutes in draft-day history.

First, the draftniks booed this choice with considerable conviction. Turpin was arguably overweight, like Barkley. But that was were the similarity ended. The draftniks didn’t think Turpin had the athleticism to become a star. Turpin good-naturedly ignored jeers and walked to the stage in a three piece gray suit and striped tie. A charade began. The Bullets clearly had no interest in Dinner Bell Mel. They already had too many big, slow guys in Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland. They had drafted Turpin to position themselves for a complex, three-team trade with Seattle and Cleveland. The Bullets would send six-foot-eleven Turpin to Cleveland for Cliff Robinson, the rights to Tim McCormick, plus cash. Then Washington would send McCormick and Ricky Sobers, a starting guard, to Seattle for aging great Gus Williams, a thirty-year-old guard.

Frankly, none of the teams made out like bandits. The announcers either were not clued into this forthcoming transaction or chose to ignore the rumors for the sake of decorum. For the moment, Turpin was a Bullet, and Turpin seemed to believe he would remain one.

“They’re going to have to enlarge the court,” Carnesecca said, projecting a forecourt of Turpin, Mahorn, and Ruland.

Turpin said he looked forward to playing for Gene Shue, the Washington coach.

“I can learn a lot from him,” he said. “I hope he’ll work with me. I like to work behind the basket, use power moves.”

None of this was ever going to happen.

The rest of the top ten picks went along smoothly, uneventfully. With number 7, the Spurs chose Alvin Robertson, a top defensive guard said to be cut from the mold of Sidney Moncrief, a long-time mainstay in Milwaukee. Robertson would have a tough backcourt to crack in San Antonio, but he would certainly find his niche.

At number 8, the sorry Clippers became no less pathetic by drafting Lancaster Gordon out of Louisville. The Clips might have drafted Barkley at number 5 if only they had kept their own pick. Instead, they chose Gordon, another disappointment-to-be. The franchise was in disarray. The Clippers were trying to move to Los Angeles at the time of this draft, but they were still using the San Diego Clippers logo. They were trying to figure out what to do with one-time great Bill Walton, an expensive acquisition who had signed with San Diego in 1979. He proved to be badly damaged goods and eventually would be shipped out in 1985 to Boston where he would enjoy a brief renaissance. It was no wonder that college coaches like Dean Smith worried for their players, viewing a stint with the Clips as an unwanted stay in purgatory. Gordon was in Bloomington, one of sixteen players with Knight and the national team, though he would later be released in the final cut down to twelve. He became the first Olympian to pop up on a video conference to the Felt Forum.

Doucette broke the bad news to Gordon, in a happy-face sort of way: “Congratulations, you are now a member of the Clippers,” he told Gordon.

At number 9, the Kansas City Kings selected one of the purest of big forwards, Otis Thorpe out of Providence College, a wonderful player who had consistently outrebounded Patrick Ewing in the Big East.

“He must learn to come out and face the basket,” Carnesecca said, a bit too disapprovingly.

Thorpe seemed pleased and honestly surprised at this early selection, which would translate into more money ($215,000 in his rookie season) than he expected.

“I had no idea,” he said. “They were saying somewhere in the middle....”

Philadelphia then chose Leon Wood, who seemed at the time to be the logical solution to an aging backcourt. The draftniks agreed. They cheered the selection. Wood was a playmaker who could bring some offense, at least at the college level. He was on the video screen from Bloomington, wearing a shirt that read “CSUF” for California State University-Fullerton. He was happy to be with Barkley in Philly, he said. Wood asked people to hold off, though, on those comparisons between himself and Isiah Thomas.

“It’s a nice compliment, but I’ve got a lot to learn,” Wood said. “I can learn a lot from Maurice Cheeks.”

The Atlanta Hawks wheeled and dealed with pick number 11. They sent Dan Roundfield to Detroit and picked Kevin Willis from Michigan State. Willis, who could swing effectively between big forward and center, had suffered an ankle injury his senior year, then came on strong when it counted, when the scouts were there at the Great Aloha Classic and at the rookie showcase in Chicago. Willis looked marvelous at the Felt Forum, a fancy purple hanky sticking out of his gray suit pocket. He had been given a pep talk by Magic Johnson, and he announced that he enjoyed the physical game.

“I can strengthen my defense, my ball handling,” Willis said.

He would be a fine player for years to come.

Cleveland owned the number 12 pick, a freebie from the commissioner jammed into the middle of the first round. The Cavs had been very bad for a very long time. The former owner, Stepien, did not help matters by trading away first-round picks as if they were half-price tickets to a Cleveland-Clipper game. This pick at number 12 was one of those giveaways that Norm Sonju in Dallas had so gravely disliked. The Cavs took McCormick at number 12, another charade. Some thought the Cavs would go for Kenny Fields at this position, but the Cavs had a deal worked out with the Bullets and needed McCormick to make it happen. Like Turpin, McCormick sounded clueless about this in front of the microphones. He was a Midwest kid, raised in Clarkston, Michigan, who had stayed in the area at the University of Michigan.

“It’s nice to be close to home,” he said, on a feed from Bloomington, where McCormick would be come another final cut by Knight. Eventually, he would be sent far, far away, traded from Cleveland to Washington, then Washington to Seattle in the three-way deal.

The Phoenix Suns chose Jay Humphries at number 13, a guard slotted to replace Dennis Johnson, who had been traded to Boston in yet another great deal for the Celtics. Humphries was supposed to be a good ball handler; he would feed Walter Davis, and there would be a harmonic convergence in the Suns’ backcourt again. Except that Humphries was no Johnson, and the draftniks knew it right away. They chanted, “Who?” from the stands.

Now, finally, Michael Jordan appeared on a video screen from Bloomington. He had a tiny microphone in his left ear, the wire clumsily dangling down across his beige polo shirt. The interview was basic, meat-and-potatoes stuff. Jordan was self-confident without appearing arrogant. Unlike some of those who went before him, he was not about to dictate his playing position on draft day.

“If I have to play small forward, guard, whatever the team needs,” Jordan said. “I’m not looking forward to going in, living up to everyone’s expectations. Just doing the best I can. I’m looking forward to meeting Coach Loughery, and looking forward to his coaching ability. Hopefully, I can go in and contribute, turn it around.”

That was it from Jordan. There was no time for further reflection, because those woeful Clippers were up again, ready at pick number 14. They chose Michael Cage, the local kid from San Diego State, a solid choice and a bit of a surprise. Cage was a six-foot-nine forward, 220. But the Clippers already had Terry Cummings, which seemed to suggest a deal was in the offing.

Before there was too much speculation, however, Sam Perkins popped up on the video feed from Bloomington. He wore a white sleeveless shirt and a big smile.

“You could be that last piece,” Doucette remarked about Perkins’s fit with the Mavericks.

“I feel very fortunate about the pick,” Perkins said. “I talked to Dick Motta, he told me what I can do. I don’t know if I’m the missing link. They have a nice program down there. Either position will do, I’m capable of playing center and forward.... I’ll probably be a center because of my bulk [compared to Barkley and Turpin, Perkins wasn’t really what anybody else would term ‘bulky’]. I’ll have to do a lot of work when I get down there.”

The Perkins interview ended abruptly so that the Mavericks could pick again, at number 15, and this would prove to be a terrible choice. With John Stockton still available, the Mavs instead picked Stansbury. Carnesecca loved the selection.

“I remember him taking the last shot that beat me in the NCAA tournament,” Carnesecca said. “He reminds me of Dave Bing. An excellent choice. He can see the whole court. He’s a good backup for Rolando Blackman.”

A remote interview with Alvin Robertson from Bloomington was cut short again by surprise pick number 16.

“The Utah Jazz select John Stockton of Gonzaga University,” Stern announced.

There were audible murmurs from the crowd. The draftniks were baffled by this one, a real mystery.

“Not many know about John Stockton,” Albert said. “His name is certainly not on the lips of the fans here in New York. His star is rising.”

There was some quick paper shuffling by the announcers. Stockton had just been picked fifth among the guard prospects in this draft but was ranked nowhere near that high by conventional wisdom. Carnesecca and Albert kicked around the pick a bit more, which made little sense on those annotations in front of them. The Jazz already had a solid backcourt in Rickey Green and Darrell Griffith.

“Frank Layden is certainly sticking his neck out,” Albert said.

Everybody just figured the Jazz had wasted a pick on a diminutive project, a backup point guard. Stockton himself watched the draft on television and smiled when he saw Carnesecca and Albert struggle to identify Utah’s odd sixteenth pick.

“The best thing about the draft,” Stockton would recall, “was watching the guys on TV flipping through their notes trying to find something on me.”

The draft droned on. The Nets waited until the last minute and then picked Jeff Turner, the Vanderbilt forward highly touted by Knight. The draftniks booed, correctly.

Detroit picked Tony Campbell at number 20.

Michael Young out of Houston was the last pick in the first round, by Boston.

Portland owned two second-round picks. The Trail Blazers chose Victor Fleming at number 26 and then plucked Jerome Kersey out of Longwood College with the forty-sixth pick overall. Not many had heard of Kersey. Blake had.

“Scouted him at a game, he had 20 rebounds,” Blake said. “Then I brought him to Portsmouth, he didn’t play well. I though the was loafing.”

The draft broadcast was done, its educated guesses and random acts now history. There was an alternative NBA universe out there, somewhere, with Jordan in Dallas or Houston, with Olajuwon in Portland, with Stockton a San Diego/Los Angeles Clipper. It was easy to imagine several scenarios in which the Bulls might have lost Jordan at the number 3 pick:

1. If Portland had won the coin flip, the Blazers planned to choose Olajuwon while the Rockets would have taken Jordan at the number 2 spot to complement Sampson.

2. If the Rockets had offered a deal sending Ralph Sampson to Chicago, the Bulls were willing to trade away their number 3 pick.

3. If the Cavaliers had lost just one more game during the regular season, or if the Bulls had won one more, the two teams would have finished in a tie. A coin flip might have awardedthe number 3 pick to the Dallas Mavericks, who owned Cleveland’s draft choice.

4. If Sam Bowie’s frail legs had failed a physical exam with Portland, the Blazers would have settled on Jordan.

5. If Bowie had come out after his sophomore year, when his mother hung up the phone on that notion, the Blazers would have tabbed Jordan.

6. If the Rockets had grabbed local hero Clyde Drexler in the 1983 draft with their second pick, number 3 overall in the first round, then Portland would not have been able to choose Drexler much lower, at number 14. Without Drexler, the Blazers would have lacked a young shooting guard and would have picked Jordan in 1984.

7. If Jonathan Kovler, the Bulls’ chief operating officer, had insisted on accepting Harold Katz’s offer of the established, aging superstar, Julius Erving, then Thorn might not have been able to retain the number 3 pick.

You never know. If only Moses had gone left...

Filip Bondy is a sports columnist at the New York Daily News

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