By Lorenzo Tanos
So we've come to the draft that so many basketball fans consider to be the best of all time. 1984, after all, was the year when Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and John Stockton were drafted. These men are now in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and having said that, they will all be exempt from my Draft Rewind's discussion of "The Best" Besides, there's no question about it. In terms of statistics, intangibles, overall impact and championship rings, Michael Jordan wasthe Best of the 1984 Draft. And his fellow Hall of Famers from the class of '84 have won their share of individual awards through the years.
Also, to give you a spoiler, we're not considering Sam Bowie as "The Bust", even if the Blazers selected him right before His Airness. Let's give the guy a break, no pun intended – he was injury-prone in college and in the pros, but he had several good years as a starting center. Yes, he was a bit of a bust, in my opinion, but there were a few other Top 10 picks in '84 who had more disappointing careers.
So we shall leave you with the complete Draft list from Basketball Reference…and my choices for The Best, The Bust, The Steal, and more interesting NBA Draft trivia.
THE TOP PICK – Hakeem Olajuwon (HOU, C, 7'0"-230, Houston) – He's got two NBA rings, numerous All-NBA, All-Defensive Team and All-Star Game appearances and an MVP award from the 1993-94 season. With the exception of DikembeMutombo, there wasn't a better defensive center than Olajuwon in the ‘90s. And he happened to be a very good scorer too, topping out at 27.8 ppg in '93-94.
THE BEST NOT TO MAKE THE DREAM TEAM and/or HOF – Kevin Willis (ATL, C/F, 7'0"-220, Michigan St., #11) – Admit it, there were times when you thought this guy would play until he was past 50. Well, he played till he was 44, and for the first 11 years of his career, Willis was one of the NBA's premier rebounders and inside scorers. As he grew older, he stuck around as a quality role player, which reduced his career averages significantly. Still, he has a slight edge over the other top candidates for this honor, Otis Thorpe (see below for some Draft trivia on Thorpe and the Kansas City Kings) and Sam Perkins, on account of his 22-year NBA career (1984-05, 2006-07). Yes, that's right – most 2006 and 2007 draftees weren't born yet when Willis played his first NBA game.
THE BUST – Lancaster Gordon (LAC, SG, 6'3"-185, Louisville, #8) – The Clippers, drafting for the first time as an L.A.-based team, dropped the ball with this one. (Then again, the last quality SG in this draft, Alvin Robertson, was picked at #7 by the Spurs, right before Gordon.) The highlight of Gordon's four-year NBA career was a 33-point effort off the bench in 1987, in a no-bearing game pitting the hapless Clippers versus the Playoffs-bound Portland Trail Blazers. Gordon averaged 5.2 ppg in those four seasons, a fraction of what a certain Michael Jeffrey Jordan averaged in 15 years.
The late Mel Turpin (WAS, C, 6'11"-280, Kentucky, #6) takes second "honors" here. Weight problems led to a disappointing pro career for the man known as "Dinner Bell Mel" and "The Mealman."
THE STEAL – Jerome Kersey (POR, F, 6'7"-210, Longwood, #46) – A strong defender who was capable of playing both forward positions, Kersey was selected out of tiny Longwood College in Virginia. He played a key role on some very good Blazers teams, and even if he bounced around a bit (5 teams over his last 6 seasons) late in his career, he deserves recognition as another example of small-college success in the NBA.
Read more trivia at NBA Trivia: Boston Celtics.
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