Top 15 NBA Players That Should've Been Drafted 1st Overall

There is no revisionist history quite like going back and reviewing a draft class for a league such as the National Basketball Association. Every NBA general manager hopes that he has landed a future star regardless of where his team is positioned during any particular draft. This is especially true for a general manager of a team that is capable of winning the NBA Lottery and a first overall pick. With great power comes great responsibility, teaches the famous adage from the comic book world, and there is a long history of NBA teams that have squandered the power that comes with having a first overall pick.

Plenty of NBA players drafted first overall have proven themselves deserving of that honor. LeBron James was, of course, always going to be a first overall draft pick and James has left no doubt that he is one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. Derrick Rose showed that he could be a Most Valuable Player when healthy. Fate and the Basketball Gods have, however, had other plans for Rose. Shaquille O'Neal, Patrick Ewing, Bill Walton, Ralph Sampson and so many other players have shown that first overall draft picks can go on to become legends of the sport.

Just as with any league that utilizes a draft system, though, there is a long list of NBA players that absolutely should have been drafted first overall. Some of the greatest men to ever play in the NBA were acquired with selections other than first overall picks. The most famous of those, as even casual basketball fans could probably guess, was none other than a product from the University of North Carolina. That player fell to third in his draft class, and he only went on to have as good a career on and off of the court as has been had by any basketball player before or after him.

15 Bill Russell 


14 Bernard King 


13 Robert Parish 


12 Gary Payton 


11 Pau Gasol

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

10 Shawn Kemp 


9 Dirk Nowitzki 

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

8 LaMarcus Aldridge 

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

7 Kevin Durant 

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

6 Kevin Garnett 

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

5 Larry Bird 


4 Stephen Curry 

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

3 Kobe Bryant 

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

2 Julius Erving 


1 Michael Jordan 


Drafting big man Hakeem Olajuwon worked out rather well for the Houston Rockets all things considered. With that said, one cannot help what would have been had the Rockets instead drafted Michael Jordan first overall. Widely considered to be the greatest single player in NBA history, Jordan was, in his prime, a once-in-a-lifetime talent at both ends of the court, and there is little reason to believe that he would not have been just as great had he linked up with Houston instead of the Chicago Bulls. Would the Rockets have been a dynasty had the team drafted Jordan instead of Olajuwon? Chicago is grateful that the world will never know the answer to that question.

On top of that, Jordan didn't even go second overall, as the Trail Blazers went with Sam Bowie over MJ. You never fail to amaze us Portland.

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Top 15 NBA Players That Should've Been Drafted 1st Overall