KEY POINTS

  • A former coach considered Michael Jordan to play center for an NBA team
  • Jordan ended up with the Chicago Bulls because Rockets and Blazers both needed centers
  • Blazers' former coach said they were never interested in Jordan

A former NBA coach wanted to draft Michael Jordan so bad and even considered him as a center for his team.

Before Jordan became the greatest player to ever play the game, he first made a name for himself in college basketball playing for Dean Smith at North Carolina. MJ was already a fierce competitor and lethal scorer in college. During his three seasons with the Tar Heels, Jordan averaged 17.7 ppg on an incredible 54% field goal shooting. He even made the game-winning jump shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game against Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.

Jordan’s impressive playing didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, Jordan's 1984 Olympics coach Bobby Knight saw the future of the young MJ. Knight has been lauding Jordan even before the NBA Draft. According to Knight, Jordan is one of the best players he had ever seen, Basketball Network reported.

“If I were going to pick three or four best athletes I’ve ever seen play basketball, he’d be one of them. I think he’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen play basketball, bar none. If I were going to pick people with the best ability I’ve ever seen play the game, he’d be one of them. If I wanted to pick one of the best competitors, he’d be one of them. He’s the best athlete,” Knight said of Jordan.

Back in the day, it is widely known that when Bobby Knight says something exceptional about a player, the team should really pursue him at all costs. However, the Blazers weren’t convinced with Knight’s assessments. Jordan indeed presented a strong case for being a future NBA superstar, but Portland needed a center. Upon being told about what the team wanted, Knight made a bold statement and said: “Play him [Jordan] at center, and he will be the best center in the league.”

The top three picks in the 1984 NBA Draft were Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and the Chicago Bulls. Some of the biggest names in the draft class were Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton.

With the no. 1 overall pick, the Rockets chose Olajuwon. The team planned to pair him with fellow big man Ralph Sampson. The Trail Blazers on the other hand, chose center Sam Bowie from University of Kentucky and the Bulls ended up with Jordan.

According to then-Blazers coach Dr. Jack Ramsey, the Blazers never seriously considered taking Jordan. They needed a big man who could rebound and defend.

“It made the most sense for us to select Sam Bowie. It was almost a no-brainer,” Ramsey said.