In the 1984 NBA Draft, a single coin flip may have led to Michael Jordan perhaps joining the Houston Rockets.
One of the best drafts in NBA history is generally agreed upon to have occurred in 1984. Regardless of whether they won a championship, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton all ended up being first-ballot Hall-of-Famers who helped their respective teams make at least one trip to the Finals.
Of the group, MJ was undoubtedly the most successful. Although Hakeem is considered one of the greatest ten players of all time, his exploits are insignificant in compared to Jordan’s. Fans are sure that the UNC grad should have been selected first overall in the 1984 NBA Draft, albeit without any supporting evidence. And they would be correct, too.
Nevertheless, it’s simple to overlook how obvious a choice Olajuwon was to general managers everywhere. On “The Last Dance,” the general manager of the Chicago Bulls at the time, Rod Thorn, confessed that he would have chosen him above Michael Jordan had he still been available at the number three choice.
Many people overlook the fact that a simple coin flip determined who gets to go where that year.
Michael Jordan could have played for the Houston Rockets
The NBA employed a coin toss to decide what would happen to the two weakest teams in each conference from 1966 through 1984. To determine which of these two clubs would receive the first overall choice, both teams would flip a coin. The final time this approach was used was in the 1984 Draft.
The Portland Trailblazers won 48 games in the 1983–84 season, although they had already purchased Indiana’s FRP for this year’s selection in 1981. The Blazers had entered the contest because Indiana was the poorest club in the East. The Rockets, however, had the lowest record in their conference with 29 victories.
At their respective positions, Michael Jordan and Hakeem (formerly known as Akeem) Olajuwon were the cherished treasures. Of course, history would have it that Houston would have chosen Hakeem after winning the coin toss, leaving Sam Bowie for the Blazers. What if Portland had won the coin toss, though?
The Blazers only selected Bowie over Michael Jordan because they were in dire need of a center to combine with a developing Clyde Drexler. But if they were given the first selection, they would unquestionably select Hakeem. Would Houston have picked a Sam Bowie with injuries if their local selection hadn’t been left for them?
The Rockets had Ralph Sampson at the time, thus they could have easily chosen to go with Michael Jordan instead of Craig Ehlo with their second-round choice. One of the most underrated events in NBA history is this “sliding doors” incident.