The Portland Trail Blazers had the second overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft and selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. They passed on Michael Jordan because they had Clyde Drexler on the roster, and he played the same position as MJ.
The Blazers’ decision to pass on Jordan allowed the Chicago Bulls to draft the high-flying shooting guard out of UNC with the third overall pick. Portland and Chicago faced each other in the 1992 NBA Finals, and Jordan threw cold-blooded shade toward the Blazers during the Bulls’ championship parade for not drafting him.
Michael Jordan attacked Clyde Drexler nonstop in ’92 Finals
Jordan took offense to pundits comparing Drexler to him, so he attacked him nonstop in the 1992 Finals. The Bulls superstar told Magic Johnson the night before Game 1 that he would go at the Blazers guard all series long to prove he was on another level than him.
The Bulls beat the Blazers in six games, with Jordan averaging 35.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists while shooting 52.6% from the field, 42.9% from beyond the arc, and 89.1% from the free-throw line. He captured his second consecutive title and Finals MVP and was on top of the basketball world.
During the Bulls’ championship parade at Grant Park in Chicago, Jordan put on his petty hat and delivered a classic MJ line that still haunts Blazers fans to this day.
Michael Jordan: ‘Thank God you drafted me instead of Portland’
During his speech to the Chicago crowd at the championship parade, Jordan trolled the Blazers by saying, “Thank God you (Bulls) drafted me instead of Portland.” As the sports world saw in the famous Last Dance docuseries, His Airness took everything personally during his playing career and likely had the Blazers on his list of teams to destroy since they took Bowie over him.
Due to severe leg injuries, Bowie only played in 139 games with the Blazers. He missed the entire 1987-88 season, and Portland traded him to the New Jersey Nets in the summer of 1989. The Lebanon, Pennsylvania native finished his NBA career with averages of 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in 511 games with the Blazers, Nets, and Los Angeles Lakers.
In hindsight, the Blazers should have drafted Jordan over Bowie and paired him with Drexler. That would have certainly been an explosive backcourt, and Portland may have won a championship. However, at the time of the 1984 draft, the Bowie pick made sense since he was a talented big man who fit well with Drexler.
Not only did Jordan demolish the Blazers in the ’92 Finals and championship parade, but he also never took his foot off the gas pedal whenever he faced them.
MJ averaged 34.0 points against Blazers during his career
Jordan faced the Blazers 24 times during his Hall of Fame career. He averaged 34.0 points against them, his highest scoring average against an opponent. That’s not a coincidence. The six-time champion made sure he torched Portland every time he played them so they wouldn’t forget about drafting Bowie.
The Blazers have had some bad luck in the NBA Draft. Not only did they draft Bowie over Jordan, but they also selected Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in the 2007 draft. Durant has turned out to be one of the greatest players in NBA history, while Oden — like Bowie — had trouble staying healthy and only played in 105 NBA games with the Blazers and Miami Heat.
Jordan certainly didn’t want to see Bowie get hurt. However, he likely took pride in the fact that the Blazers’ draft pick didn’t work out, and he became arguably the best basketball player of all time.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.