Skip to main content

Bobby Knight Urged The Portland Trail Blazers To Draft Michael Jordan At Any Cost: “Play Him At Center”

Bobby Knight Urged The Portland Trail Blazers To Draft Michael Jordan At Any Cost: “Play Him At Center”

Michael Jordan made it to the NBA as the 3rd overall pick in the mythical 1984 NBA Draft, changing the history of a team that wasn't even competitive before he made it there. Of course, MJ had to fight hard to make it to the pros, but once he was there, he took over. 

His Airness took the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs in his first season in the league, although it was hard for him at the beginning, people knew they were seeing something special in MJ. Some even caught that before he made it to the association and were very high on him. 

Bobby Knight was one of those, and he tried to advise one team to pick Jordan before somebody else put their hands on him. Back in 1984, after coaching him on Team USA, Knight urged the Portland Trail Blazers to take Jordan in that year's draft, but they had different (and horrible) plans. 


Bobby Knight Urged Trail Blazers To Draft Michael Jordan, Even If They Used Him At Center 

An old column by Bill Simmons recalled the moment when Knight urged the Blazers to pick Michael Jordan with their No. 2 overall draft pick in the 1984 draft, even telling them to use him at the 5 if they were so keen to land a center. 

Last month, NBA.com TV replayed each NBA draft telecast since 1981. Most sports fans stumble across draft marathons and say, "Who watches this stuff?" I pop in an eight-hour tape.

A huge number of screwups are on that tape, including one of sports' watershed blunders: Portland taking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in 1984. You know the setup: Akeem (pre-Hakeem) Olajuwon is the clear No. 1 because Can't-Miss Centers top Can't-Miss Anything Elses. Drafting second, Portland knew Jordan was a sure thing -- we all did-but they had Clyde Drexler at shooting guard.

Bobby Knight, who'd coached MJ at the '84 Olympic trials, urged Blazers GM Stu Inman (an old pal) to take Jordan. Inman said, "But we need a center." Knight yelled back, "So play him at center!" Inman didn't listen, and the result is a jaw-dropping scene.

In the end, the Blazers went with Bowie, who was nothing close to Jordan. The GOAT became exactly that, the greatest of all time, with the Chicago Bulls winning six championships over eight years in the 90s, becoming one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. 

Clyde Drexler stated he and Jordan would have worked great together even if they played the same position, but the Blazers thought differently, and the result was them making the Finals a couple of times, while Jordan went unbeaten in the biggest series, even defeating them in 1992