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Michael Jordan May Have Been a Portland Trail Blazer If This Player Hadn't Told This Big Lie Before the NBA Draft


Sam Bowie (AP)

The Portland Trail Blazers selected center Sam Bowie with the second overall pick of the 1984 NBA draft. One of the greatest players in NBA history was selected third -- Michael Jordan.

However, Portland may have thought twice about passing on Jordan if they had known what Bowie was hiding in the days leading up to the draft.

Now, 17 years after he played in his final game, Bowie admits that he lied about how much pain he felt in the days before the NBA draft. And as a result, an unsuspecting Trail Blazers organization selected Bowie with the second overall pick. The Chicago Bulls ended up taking Jordan third and the rest is history.

Bowie admitted his big lie in the ESPN documentary "Going Big," set to air on Dec. 20 on ESPNU. Yahoo! Sports was given a sneak peak at the documentary.

"I can still remember them taking a little mallet, and when they would hit me on my left tibia, and 'I don't feel anything' I would tell 'em. But deep down inside, it was hurting," Bowie said.

"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."

He also said that "deep down inside I physically wasn't what these guys were." As we now know, even a very healthy Bowie wouldn't have been able to preform on the same level as Jordan, who ended his career with six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.


Still, Bowie played in just 511 out of a possible 820 games in his 10-year career and he never made an All-Star team. He is considered by many sports fans as one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history.

Yahoo! Sports has more background on Bowie's troubled career:

Bowie's time in high school in Lebanon, Pa., may have been a peak as a healthy performer, but in watching the big man it's clear even then that he was uneasy at times while dealing with aches and pains, or needed to be taught and trained to work through the game in a way that didn't put undue stress on his legs and feet. Watching video of Bowie from that era is to see all the hallmarks of Sam at his best — all alley-oop dunks and slick passing — but it's uncomfortable at times to watch him work up and down the court.

There's a fractured shin in college that went undiagnosed for months. Then there's the admission that he hid pain from Portland doctors before the draft. And then on draft night, with Houston already having selected Hakeem Olajuwon first overall and Jordan off at Team USA's training camp in preparation for the 1984 Olympics, the Blazers made what was considered the obvious choice. With an All-Star small forward in Jim Paxson already on the roster, and a promising young shooting guard in Clyde Drexler set to take in a minutes increase at shooting guard, they chose Bowie.


His rookie season went swimmingly. Not to the tune of Jordan's 28.2 points per game and Rookie of the Year award, but as part of a more talented Portland collective featuring Drexler, Paxson, Kiki Vandeweghe and Mychal Thompson that shared the ball and won 42 games despite a very young roster. On top of that, Portland ranked seventh in offense and eighth in defensive efficiency that season, and probably should have won more games. The team's Expected Won/Loss Record of 49-33 details as much.

Did Bowie do something wrong by not divulging the pain he was experiencing in his leg, which could have impacted the Trail Blazers' decision?

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