Six NBA Players Who Were Not Drafted Number 1 But Went On To Become Legends

Six NBA Players Who Were Not Drafted Number 1 But Went On To Become Legends NBA History

Getting drafted No. 1 in the NBA is one of those things that stays with a player no matter what turn his career takes. It is considered a badge of honour, a mark a player carries with him as he takes his first steps in professional basketball. It is, possibly, the most glamorous way a player can enter the NBA, a sign of recognition of both, your potential and your previous accomplishments at the collegiate level.

So what does it say when some of the biggest stars the NBA has ever seen were not drafted No. 1? Well, not much maybe, given the huge pool of talent that enters the league every year. Nonetheless, let’s have a look at some of the biggest names that were not drafted No. 1, but went on to have magnificent careers nonetheless.

Bill Russell, drafted No. 2 by St. Louis Hawks, 1956

WATCH: NBA Vintage: Bill Russell

The Boston Celtics have won an NBA-record 17 championships. Things would certainly have turned out very different had the legendary Celtics’ coach Red Auerbach not persisted on a trade with the St. Louis Hawks. Boston had to give up their six-time All-Star center and star player Ed Macauley as well as Cliff Hagan to acquire Russell who was drafted at number two by the Hawks. Who went number one in that year’s draft? A certain Sihugo Green was drafted No. 1 by the Rochester Royals. Russell and the Celtics ended up having more rings than humans have fingers.

Player drafted ahead: Sihugo Green (1) – Rochester Royals

Larry Bird, drafted No. 6 by Boston Celtics, 1978

WATCH: Larry Bird ULTIMATE mixtape!

The Celtics were a dynasty before Larry ‘Legend’ joined them. But Bird’s going to the Celtics meant the Boston never had to worry about a rough transition into another decade of championship contention. The rivalry between Bird’s Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Lakers was the best thing that happened to the league and the rest, as they say, is history. That Bird is the only Hall Of Famer from his draft class speaks volumes about his talent, dedication and mettle.

Players drafted ahead: Mychal Thompson (1) – Portland Trail Blazers, Phil Ford (2) – Kansas City Kings, Rick Robey (3) – Indiana Pacers, Michael Richardson (4) – New York Knicks, Purvis Short (5) – Golden State Warriors

Michael Jordan drafted No. 3 by Chicago Bulls, 1984

WATCH: Michael Jordan career retrospective

Arguably the greatest baller of All-Time wasn’t drafted at number 1. It might seem blasphemous, but one has to remember that when Jordan stepped into the league, it was a league of giants. The teams focussed on running their offenses through their centers, who were the primary cogs in their team’s game plans. Jordan changed all that. But entering in a draft class that was stacked and boasted future MVPs, champions and Hall Of Famers, it is understandable that Jordan was drafted third.

Players drafted ahead: Hakeem Olajuwon (1) – Houston Rockets, Sam Bowie (2) – Portland Trail Blazers

Charles Barkley drafted No. 5 by Philadelphia 76ers, 1984

WATCH: Charles Barkley career retrospective

The man they call “The Round Mound Of Rebound” was an offensive spark plug and a tenacious rebounder in his heyday. He led his team to the NBA Finals and was a part of the 1992 US Dream Team  at the Olympics. Just like Jordan, Barkley was part of the fabled ’84 draft class and taken after Hakeem and Jordan. He would win an MVP award and go on to be inducted to the Hall Of Fame, though two of his fellow draft class players (Hakeem and Jordan) would prevent him from winning an NBA title.

Players drafted ahead: Hakeem Olajuwon (1) – Houston Rockets, Sam Bowie (2) – Portland Trail Blazers, Michael Jordan (3) – Chicago Bulls, Sam Perkins (4) – Dallas Mavericks

Kobe Bryant drafted No. 13 by Charlotte Hornets, 1996

WATCH: Kobe Bryant’s top 10 plays of his career

When Kobe Bryant decided to enter the draft, he was still in high school. It was not normal for players to enter the draft straight after high school as it was believed that spending time in college meant players entered the league more polished and mentally better prepared. But for a precocious talent like Kobe, reaching the NBA was what it was all about. Kobe was drafted at number thirteen and then promptly traded to the Lakers. He was part of yet another legendary draft class that boasted the likes of Allen Iverson, Ray Allen and Steve Nash among others.

Notable players drafted ahead: Allen Iverson (1) – Philadelphia 76ers, Marcus Camby (2) – Toronto Raptors, Stephon Marbury (4) – Milwaukee Bucks, Ray Allen (5) – Minnesota Timberwolves

Kevin Durant drafted No. 2 by Seattle Supersonics, 2007

WATCH: Durant’s VERY BEST plays from 2016-2017 regular season & playoffs

The Portland Trail Blazers have had some treacherous luck when it comes to the draft. But general consensus at the time was that the Blazers got it right when they drafted big man Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. However, Durant would go on to become a transcendental scorer and win an MVP (2014) while Oden’s injury issues forced him to retire without completing a single NBA season. With the former MVP now leading the Warriors to an impressive win in the 2017 NBA Finals, few would argue that Durant would be the number one pick if the 2007 NBA draft were to be redone today.

Player drafted ahead: Greg Oden (1) – Portland Trail Blazers


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