On this day, Warrior superstar Rick Barry became the first NBA player to defect to the ABA, the Portland Trailblazers picked Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan in the draft; Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics; and the Los Angeles Lakers won their first championship of the Shaq-Kobe era.
Rick Barry Jumps to the ABA
Second-year phenomenon Rick Barry, who led the NBA in scoring (35.6 ppg) and led the San Francisco Warriors to the NBA Finals where they lost in six games to Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers (despite Barry average 40.8 ppg), became the first NBA star to jump to the new American Basketball Association. Barry signed to play with the Oakland Oaks to be reunited with his college coach and father-in-law Bruce Hale.
The Warriors sued and won, forcing Barry to sit out the 1967-68 season. He led the Oaks to their only championship the following season. After four seasons in the ABA, Barry returned to the Warriors and led them to their first championship in California in 1975.
Portland Picks Sam Bowie Over Michael Jordan
The 1984 NBA Draft was a strong class in which three of the top five picks became Hall of Famers. The Houston Rockets had the top pick and selected Hakeem Olajuwon who would lead the franchise to two NBA titles. The Portland Trailblazers then picked 7-1 Sam Bowie, who had led Kentucky to the Final Four.
With the third selection, the Chicago Bulls chose Michael Jordan, with General Manager Rod Thorn explaining they wished they could have picked Bowie.
We wish Jordan were seven-feet, but he isn’t. There just wasn’t a center available. What can you do? Jordan isn’t going to turn this franchise around. I wouldn’t ask him to. He’s a very good offensive player, but not an overpowering offensive player.
Bowie never overcame injuries sustained in college, although he managed to play for ten seasons in the NBA. In contrast, Jordan was a five-time MVP who led the Bulls to six NBA titles.
In the tenth round, the Bulls drafted sprinter Carl Lewis, one month after the Dallas Cowboys drafted him. Lewis, who had never played either football or basketball, ignored both invitations and went on to win four gold medals in the 1984 Olympics and nine overall in his career.
Len Bias Dies
Two-days after being selected second in the NBA Draft by the defending NBA Champions Boston Celtics, Maryland All-American Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose. Bias death put the Maryland basketball program under scrutiny and led to the resignation of long-time coach Lefty Driesell.
Shaq-Kobe Dynasty Begins
The Los Angeles Lakers won their first Championship in the post-Magic era, beating the Indiana Pacers 4-2. See Champions: The Shaq-Kobe Dynasty Begins.