In hindsight, it is really funny to see archived footage of Walt Frazier and Mark Eaton throw away the idea of a rookie Michael Jordan changing the entire Chicago Bulls franchise by himself.
In a less-than-VHS-quality recording of Frazier shown in ESPN’s Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, the Hall of Famer wasn’t too keen on the idea of the young guard taking over the NBA:
“Michael’s got to realize that he’s not seven-foot, so he’s not going to carry a team in the NBA. I think he will be a great addition to the Bulls and should draw fans to the game, but it takes more than one guy to win games.”
Eaton also shared a similar sentiment.
Of course, it was just a sign of the times. Two old-school players, one a big man, in an era where big men dominated, couldn’t have seen a future in which dominant perimeter players would change the landscape of the NBA and would no longer need the megastar big to win a championship.
So, it was no surprise that in that documentary it was revealed that Hakeem Olajuwon was actually desired by the Bulls over Jordan in the 1984 draft.
“Olajuwon would have been first by anybody who picked, including me,” Rod Thorn, then-GM of the Bulls, said in the documentary.
While it would be kind of fun to poke at the fact that Hakeem was the higher prospect coming out of college, it makes sense. The Bulls, looking to rejuvenate their franchise in the draft, wanted the best talent available, and that was considered by many to be Hakeem. And considering they were drafting in the ‘80s, a potentional All-NBA big man is exactly who you would build around.
Thankfully for them — unlike the Portland Trail Blazers who already had a star guard in Clyde Drexler and took center Sam Bowie — the Bulls had the luxury of not settling on taking the best big man left, but the best player left. And they ended up getting one of the two best players taken in 1984.
Say what you will about who the Houston Rockets would take at No. 1 if that crop of players were re-drafted, they still got two rings out of their guy.