Michael Jordan Once Revealed How Houston Winning the 1984 Draft Led to Chicago Bulls Dynasty: “If Portland Had Won the Coin Flip”
2024/04/01

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The coin toss that decided six NBA Championships. Now that sounds a bit dramatic. But it’s not far from the truth. The coin toss that decided the winners of the 1984 NBA Draft shaped the fortunes of two NBA franchises – the Portland Trail Blazers and the Chicago Bulls. One ended up with six titles in the next decade. The other, still searching for its first.

During his iconic interview with in 2005, detailed how his stint with the Chicago Bulls was pretty much decided on the back of a coin flip. The coin flip in question decided the Houston Rockets to be the winners of the 1984 NBA Draft’s opening pick.

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The Trail Blazers ended up with the second pick after losing the toss.

Before the Draft, Jordan’s coach at University of North Carolina, Dean Smith, had done some calculations, which projected the 1982 NCAA champ going to the Philadelphia 76ers as the third overall pick. However, the equations started to shift after Chicago started losing games towards the end of the season, MJ told Shanken.

The Bulls ended up with the third spot eventually, ahead of Philly. However, there were still two teams that had the opportunity to draft Jordan ahead of the Bulls, Portland and Houston. Hakeem Olajuwon was pretty much a lock as the first overall pick.

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However, the Rockets had confirmed to MJ that they would pick him if they had the second pick.

“But then we got assurance from Houston that if they lost the coin flip to Portland, they’d take me—it was a coin flip between the top two teams to determine the first pick,” Jordan revealed, during the interview. However, Houston ended up winning the coin flip, which ensured them the first overall pick and hence, Hakeem Olajuwon.

On the other hand, Portland ended up with the second overall pick and decided to draft Sam Bowie. Jordan later underlined how close the whole thing was, “If Portland had won the coin flip, they would have taken Hakeem, and I would have ended up in Houston.

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But the coin flip came up Houston, and that put me back to third with Chicago.”

While Portland’s decision to draft Bowie ahead of Jordan seems like a blunder in hindsight, the Trail Blazers had their reasons. According to former , “I think that very few other teams would have taken Bowie over Jordan. But Portland did it given they already had Clyde Drexler and Jim Paxson on their team.”

1984 NBA Draft Class had some of the greatest talents of all-time

The 1984 Draft Class is widely touted as one of the most decorated in NBA history. While Michael Jordan going third overall in any year will seem outrageous, the class of 1984 actually had some raw talents who could have rivaled MJ’s greatness, at that point in time at least.

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Hakeem Olajuwon was the clear favorite as the first overall pick across the board because of his size. In an era still dominated by big men, someone like ‘the Dream’ was obviously a dream pick, ahead of the fast and athletic UNC 2-guard.

The 1984 Draft also had generational talents like Charles Barkley and John Stockton, who added to the myth of the class of ’84. The fact that Stockton was picked 16th overall proves just how close Jordan was to being drafted by another franchise.

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