Scottie Pippen was the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft and made a decent career for himself.
The Chicago Bulls had specifically targeted Pippen in the draft but believed that he’d be gone by the time they made their selection at No. 8. Thus, they engineered a trade with the Seattle Supersonics. The Sonics chose Pippen with the fifth overall pick and traded him to Chicago for Olden Polynice, whom the Bulls selected with the eighth pick, and future draft picks. The rest, as they say, is history.
Scottie Pippen went on to win six NBA titles with the Bulls and was a seven-time All-Star and a seven-time All-NBA selection. He won two Olympic gold medals and was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1997. It wasn’t easy living in the shadow of Michael Jordan but Pippen thrived in the role, becoming a great player in his own right. Pippen is a two-time Hall of Fame inductee.
But how did those four players selected before Pippen in the ’87 draft fare in the NBA?
Of the four players taken before Pippen, first overall pick David Robinson was the only other to even make an NBA All-Star team, doing so 10 times in his 14-year career with the San Antonio Spurs. It took Robinson two years to get to the NBA due to his commitments to the Navy but he thrived immediately, averaging 24.3 points and 12 rebounds en route to winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1990.
Throughout his career, the man known as “The Admiral” continued to build an impressive list of accolades. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, the same year he won a gold medal alongside Scottie Pippen and the Dream Team. He was the NBA MVP in 1995. Robinson was a 10-time All-NBA selection and an eight-time All-Defensive selection. Robinson also won two NBA championships and, like Pippen, was named to the 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. He’s also a two-time Hall of Fame inductee.
While never an NBA All-Star, Armen Gilliam, who was taken with the second overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns, played 13 seasons in the NBA and enjoyed a solid career.
Never the main scoring option on any team for which he played, Gilliam was a double-digit scorer for the vast majority of his career. He was named to the All-Rookie First Team in 1988, averaging 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Suns.
In 13 seasons split between the Suns, Hornets, 76ers, Nets, Bucks, and Jazz, Armen Gilliam averaged 13.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Dennis Hopson, the 1987 Big Ten Player of the Year at Ohio State, was selected with the third pick in the 1987 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets. Hopson was actually one of six guards chosen by the Nets that year (the draft was still seven rounds at that time) but never produced the way the team wanted him to. He averaged 13 points per game in three years with the Nets before joining Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls in 1990.
Hopson was a member of the Bulls’ first championship team, appearing in 61 games and averaging 4.3 points per game. He played just two games for Chicago in 1991-1992 and finished the season with the Sacramento Kings, his last season in the NBA. He did, however, find some success overseas, playing eight years in various countries before retiring in 2000.
The Los Angeles Clippers took Georgetown’s Reggie Williams with the fourth pick in the 1987 NBA draft. Williams averaged just over 10 points per game in his first two seasons in LA before being dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1989-1990 season. After 32 games with the Cavs, he was moved to San Antonio for the remainder of the season.
Williams’ biggest success in the NBA came with his six seasons with the Denver Nuggets, where he averaged 14.2 points. After stints with the Pacers and Nets, he retired in 1997. In 599 career games, Reggie Williams averaged 12.5 points.