Going back in history, it is amazing to see how many great players didn't get drafted 1st overall, or even in the top 5. You would think that almost all of the best players of all time would be drafted at the top of their respective drafts, but surprisingly, that isn't the case. Even the single greatest player didn't get drafted with the first pick in his draft. Maybe what makes these players who didn't get selected first so good, is their motivation to prove the teams wrong that skipped on them. The player getting drafted first overall doesn't get that added motivation to prove people wrong because everyone believes in him. This doesn't negate the fact that many great players have been drafted higher, but I just think someone drafted later has a chip on his shoulder.
The team owners and GM's that passed on the players on this list must feel stupid. While they couldn't have possibly known at the time, looking back, it must make them sick. For the Portland Trail Blazers to have two of the biggest mistakes on this list they must be sitting at home thinking of what could have been. In any event, mistakes are going to be made every draft. Here are 15 players that should have been drafted a lot higher.
15 Nate Thurmond
Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond got drafted in the 1963 NBA draft 2nd overall after Art Heyman. Heymen was a fantastic college player for Duke. In fact, he was one of their best players ever, but he still couldn't find the same success in the NBA. Nate Thurmond on the other hand, had a long, successful NBA career, one that resulted in him getting inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. The Knicks were the team to pass on Thurmond and the Warriors were the lucky team to capitalize on their mistake.
"Nate the Great" Thurmond had gaudy numbers. In the 1967-68 season, he scored 20 points per game and averaged 22 boards. That's impressive no matter what year he was playing in.
14 Robert Parish
Robert Parish was a very steady and consistent player. He played in the league for 21 years and in every season but his last he played at least 70 games. He played the best portion of his career for the Boston Celtics. He shot a very high field goal percentage and grabbed an average of 10 rebounds most seasons. He has also won four NBA finals. He is the all time leader in games played in the NBA. That is a testament to his longevity, health, and how good of a player he is.
13 Bernard King
Bernard King is 16th on the overall NBA scoring list. King was one of the game's best scorers, and at the time, he was leading the league or near the top. He made it to the All-Star game four times and was named to the All-NBA team twice. He got drafted 7th overall by the Nets, and in his rookie season, he already broke their franchise single-season scoring record. Impressive. He would later break his own record.
12 Tim Hardaway
Tim Hardaway revolutionized the NBA. He is credited with inventing the crossover, which is one of the most utilized moves in the NBA today. If it weren't for the crossover that people know and love, the NBA and basketball wouldn't be nearly as popular as it is today. He was a great player for both Golden State Warriors and the Miami Heat. He was drafted by the Warriors with the 14th pick in 1989. Other great players in the draft class are Shawn Kemp and Glen Rice. Kemp was very close to making this list but I think the way Hardaway changed the game was so important.
11 Gary Payton
Gary "The Glove" Payton is one of the NBA's all-time best defenders. He played with Shawn Kemp and the two of them made a dynamic duo with the Seattle SuperSonics. Payton is probably the greatest player in Sonics history which is always something that is incredibly awesome to be able to say. Payton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. Payton is considered to be the most well-rounded point guard to ever play the game.
10 LaMarcus Aldridge
The 2006 NBA draft was a pretty good draft when you look back at it. The finest product of the draft? "Big L.A." was drafted by the Bulls but immediately traded to the Trail Blazers where he spent the first part of his career. Aldridge has already been an All-Star five times so far in his career and I would expect more to come. After the 2014-15 season, he was a free agent and after a lot of speculation, he chose the San Antonio Spurs, sending the Trail Blazers into a rebuild.
9 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was coming straight out of high-school so he wasn't as high on teams draft boards as he would be had he gone to at least one year of college. That didn't deter him, though. Allen Iverson was the #1 overall pick, and while he was a great selection, Kobe was just a little bit better. Even if you somehow make the argument that Iverson should remain first overall, one thing's for sure; Kobe Bryant should not have slipped all the way down to 13.
8 Stephen Curry
Some of the NBA's current premier players were drafted in 2009. Blake Griffin, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, and Jeff Teague all came out of this stacked draft class. Curry, however, is the only one of these players to win MVP, unanimous at that, and to win a championship. The other guys haven't done either of those things. Curry is breaking records every game and the Warriors continue to build their dynasty just when you think they can't get any better.
7 Bill Russell
What else is there to say about Bill Russell? He is the greatest winner in NBA history. Although he wasn't the only important player on all of those championship teams, he played a large role in everyone. Despite his 11 rings, I don't consider him to be the best player of all time. His scoring numbers aren't impressive even by today's standards, and for back then, he was hardly an offensive threat. He was a great defender and rebounder, don't get me wrong, but on offense, he was limited. Also, the 11 rings were much easier to attain during Russell's playing days, although it was still hard, there were only about 1o teams in the league. Much better odds to win it all.
6 Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett is the old man of the NBA these days. It used to be Tim Duncan but since he has retired, Garnett now takes that title. He was a great player for the Timberwolves his first time around, but this time he is more of a mentor to the young and talented Karl Anthony-Towns. He was also great with the Celtics where he won a ring. After a short stint with the Nets that failed, he went back to the Timberwolves.
5 Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki has been shooting his fadeaway jump shot for a long time now. His shot has to be one of the most dominant and unstoppable moves in the NBA only behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook. Someone who has never watched him play would probably sound something like, "What is he shooting...? Oh, it went in..." He is great at making hard shots, and there isn't a shot on the floor he can't make.
4 Julius Erving
"Doctor J" is one of the all-time greats. What he did for the game is unrivaled. He invented the high-flying style of play we see today and without him, our game would look a lot different. Erving's draft story is much more complicated than most players because he spent a lot of his time in the ABA. Between the ABA and NBA combined he has scored over 30,000 points over the span of his career. That's impressive.
3 Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant was the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, selected behind none other than Greg Oden. Boy, the Blazers must be kicking themselves for that. The contrast between the two is enough to put Durant here. The funniest part is the fans will say that the Blazers screwed up, but the Sonics (now the Thunder) wanted Oden too. Most people around the NBA felt that Durant was too skinny to be able to play in the rough and tough NBA, but he put that to rest awfully quick. Maybe it was because he couldn't do one rep of the 185-pound bench press, or just because people wanted a reason to dislike Durant, one way or the other, people had a misconception that he wouldn't be able to hang in the NBA.
2 Larry Bird
Larry Bird is the only Hall of Famer from his 1978 draft class. That alone should be reason enough to prove to you that he was easily the best player in the draft and should have been taken 1st overall. Bird is one of the league's all-time best scorers and one of the game's best competitors. He always had great battles with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Julius Erving. He is truly a legend that's how he earned his nickname, "Larry Legend".
1 Michael Jordan
Even the GOAT himself didn't get the feeling of getting drafted 1st overall. Jordan is the best player of all time and some NBA teams didn't think he was worthy of the 1st pick in the draft. This is huge motivation for player who got drafted lower than they think they should have gone. Teams thought even MJ had things he had to improve before he could be their franchise player.
The first overall pick in the 1984 draft, Hakeem Olajuwon, was a bonafide star in this league.
In almost any other draft he would be the unanimous first overall pick, but when you get drafted in front of Jordan, it's impossible to exceed him. The Rockets might not even want Jordan instead of Hakeem, but the overall consensus would be to draft Jordan.
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