Nothing particularly extraordinary occurred on June 19, 1984. Movie buffs were anxiously awaiting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bizarre adventure film Conan the Destroyer and Ralph Maccio’s soon-to-be glorified performance in The Karate Kid, both set to be released in the coming days. Teens were jamming out to Prince’s When Doves Cry and Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and final preparations were being made for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Oh, and the Portland Trail Blazers passed on a man that would become the greatest NBA player of all time. The Blazers, apparently not interested in having too many shooting guards, with Clyde Drexler already on their roster, passed on North Carolina star Michael Jordan in favor of a man that missed both the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.
Sam Bowie, a 7’1″, 230-pound center from Kentucky, was taken with the No. 2 overall pick and although the botched pick had not yet entered the discussion of worst draft picks of all-time, it was heavily criticized. Bowie suffered a stress fracture in his left tibia at the end of his 1980-81 sophomore season in Lexington. He would miss the entire following season, and, after a slow recovery process and concerns over his long-term future if he rushed back, Bowie sat out the 1982-83 season as well.
He managed to lead UK to the 1984 Final Four, received Second-Team All-America honors and was still considered an elite NBA prospect entering the 1984 draft. He would appear in only 511 NBA games, a measly 139 of which came with Portland as he battled constant injuries. Bowie spent four years in New Jersey before capping off his career with the Lakers during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. He did not have a poor NBA career, but it was not one that justified his No. 2 overall selection. The Pennsylvania native averaged 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds during those ten years and is forever known as the man taken before Michael Jordan.
Portland fans need no reminder of what could have been, but just in case they want to relive the agony of that day 31 years ago, enjoy: