What if Michael Jordan joined Clyde Drexler with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1984?
Jordan and Clyde Drexler say they could have played alongside each other.
NBA Commissioner David Stern walks up to the podium — USA Network is televising the 1984 NBA Draft — and announces: “Portland selects Michael Jordan of the University of North Carolina.”
That didn’t happen. The Trail Blazers bypassed taking Jordan and picked Sam Bowie No. 2 following Houston’s decision to draft Hakeem Olajuwon with the No. 1 overall pick.
Chicago took Jordan, and we know the rest of that story.
We also know why Portland choose Bowie. The Blazers had a talented wing player named Clyde Drexler, and they believed they needed a center. Big men played a prominent role in a team’s success in that era of the NBA, and teams drafted more on need than talent.
So, Portland general manager Stu Inman drafted Bowie, not wanting or thinking he needed another wing alongside Drexler. That wouldn’t happen today. A GM would draft the most talented player and work from there even if it meant making a trade later.
“There’s stories like that in any sport,” Inman once said when Jordan retired in 1999. “You can look at any draft, and there’s going to be those questions raised.”
True. But not like this one.
What if — one of the biggest what ifs in NBA history — the Blazers had chosen Jordan instead of Bowie?
The Blazers would have had Jordan on one wing and Drexler on the other, and Drexler said during the 1992 Finals between the Bulls and Blazers, “I believe we could have coexisted.”
Jordan said the same.
“With a little hindsight, we could have adjusted to each other, because of our skills. It could have worked out,” Jordan said in 1992.
Drexler,who turned into All-NBA player, champion and Basketball Hall of Famer, claims Mychal Thompson, Klay’s father, is on record saying, “If the Portland Trail Blazers choose Michael Jordan, him and Clyde Drexler will become the next dynasty for the next 10 or 15 years in the NBA.”
It would have been a lethal combination with Drexler at small forward and Jordan at shooting guard. Take the rest of the Blazers roster that reached the 1990 Finals: Terry Porter at point guard, Jerome Kersey at power forward and Kevin Duckworth at center Clifford Robinson and Drazen Petrovic off the bench.
(The Blazers likely would not have had Buck Williams on the roster in this Jordan scenario because the Blazers traded Bowie to the Nets for Williams.)
Or the Blazers roster, with Jordan, that advanced to the 1992 Finals: Jordan, Drexler, Porter, Duckworth, Robinson, Kersey, Danny Ainge, Mark Bryant and Alaa Abdelnaby.
You can make the argument that the Blazers would have defeated the Pistons in 1990 and the Eastern Conference representative with Jordan on Portland in 1992. You could also make the argument the Blazers probably would have won another two or three championships with Jordan.
Instead of the Bulls, it would’ve been the Blazers who ruled the 1990s. “The Last Dance” would have examined Jordan’s time in Portland, his relationship with Drexler, and relationships with Jack Ramsay and Rick Adelman, the Blazers’ coaches, and all the other characters on Portland’s team.
And Inman, the general manager, would be viewed in a much different light. He, not Rod Thorn, would have been praised for drafting Jordan. Though Inman also helped build the Blazers team that won the 1977 championship, Inman is remembered for this draft snafu.
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