The World According to AdamLee

On the eve of the 2007 NBA Draft I inevitably had to direct my attention to my hometown Houston Rockets. I am 25 minutes away from San Antonio at my college and so I have had to hear about the Spurs all year. Yes they are a dynasty. Yes they have the best power forward of all time. Yes they have been one of the best drafting teams in the last 10 years. But I still think the Lakers, Celtics, and Bulls dynasty teams would all beat them.

Which brings me to what might have been. I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan. In fact when I was little I made a deal with my Mom that if she bought me a pair of Air Jordans I would in return wear them for 2 years straight. And you better believe I wore the hell out of those shoes. You literally could see my feet wearing through the bottoms. But when I wore them I was on top of the world.

Another player I loved was Hakeem Olajuwon. The Dream Shake is still a move me and my friends back home attempt when shooting around. In 1995 and 1995 he was arguably the best center in the game and made David Robinson look like a fool in the Western Conference Finals on Robinson's MVP year. The years 1991 to 1998 were heaven for me because my two favorite teams owned the NBA.

Now imagine those two together? No way it could happen, right? Wrong. Houston had not one but two chances to trade for his Airness. Here is an equally compelling and heartbreaking article, for Houston Fans, that I think you might enjoy. Will we be looking back on Greg Oden as the Sam Bowie of this year's draft? Who knows? Check back in 10 years.

Houston Just Missed Dynasty; Had The Rockets Been Willing To Trade Ralph Sampson, Jordan Could Have Ended Up in Houston
Chicago Tribune -- June 11, 1998
By Sam Smith

Forget the sixth championship.


Michael Jordan should be going for an eighth or ninth title by now. He should be challenging the records of Bill Russell's Boston Celtics.

He should be part of the greatest one-two punch in NBA history . . . with Hakeem Olajuwon.

That was the real mistake of the 1984 draft. It has long been hung on the Portland Trail Blazers for selecting Sam Bowie with the No. 2 pick instead of Jordan.

"[Jordan] was good," Jack Ramsay, the then-Portland coach recalled in a rather obvious description. "I saw him on that [1984] Olympic team. My Portland team, our rookies and free agents, scrimmaged against them. Everybody says now they knew, 'Oh, yeah,' but I'll tell you no one predicted this."

No one predicted Jordan would become arguably the greatest player in NBA history. A shooting guard carrying a team to the NBA title had never happened before and was never even imagined -- especially by the Bulls.

"Michael is a very good offensive player but not an overpowering one," Rod Thorn, then the Bulls' GM, said after drafting Jordan. "He's not the kind of guy who will single-handedly turn around a franchise, and I'd never ask him to do that."

Which may have been the best break the Bulls ever had. Because if the Rockets had an idea -- if anyone had -- some things would not have been the same. Kids would be wearing Rockets jerseys, and Al Capone would still be Chicago's most famous citizen.

The 1984 season was the last in which the NBA used a coin flip between the worst Eastern and Western Conference teams to determine the No. 1 draft pick. The lottery began in 1985 to eliminate the longstanding practice of teams tanking games down the stretch to improve their draft position or get a shot at the coin flip.

The Rockets, who had taken star center Ralph Sampson first in 1983, lost 17 of their last 20 to settle into the worst record in the West.

The Pacers, who had traded their 1984 No. 1 pick to Portland several years before for center Tom Owens, held off the Bulls, who lost 14 of their last 15. Had the Pacers not made the trade, they would have been in position to pick Jordan. And they would not have taken Bowie at No. 2. Portland did, for reasons that have been explained many times.

The Blazers had drafted guard Clyde Drexler the year before. He was nearly as highly regarded as Jordan in college, and veteran shooting guard Jim Paxson was All-NBA Second Team that season.

"You thought [Jordan] was going to be a good player," Ramsay said, "but we were good at 'two' guard. Our scouts thought highly of Bowie. We gave him a physical exam. The doctors said he was fine, but that turned out not to be the case."

Bowie's legs simply failed him. Although he went on to have a reasonably productive NBA career with several teams, he was never more than a solid role player.

If Hakeem Olajuwon was the certain No. 1 pick coming out of the University of Houston after three Final Four appearances, the other given was Portland's desire for a center. The Blazers were a playoff team, but hadn't been in serious contention since Bill Walton's injuries ended the run of Portland's 1977 championship team.

"Jack Ramsay did what he had to do for his team," said Bill Fitch, who was then coaching the Rockets. "Sam Bowie was a special player. I never saw a center pass the ball any better than Sam."

Another possibility, however, was Sampson, the 1984 Rookie of the Year who averaged more than 20 points his first two seasons. What if Houston had selected Olajuwon with the No. 1 pick and then traded Sampson for the No. 2 pick and used it to select Jordan? The Rockets would have had the best inside and outside players of their era.

"We had to have a center," Ramsay said. "We would have done that."

If only people had thought Jordan was better.

"There was a time when we felt there was a chance to make a trade with Chicago with Sampson for Jordan," Fitch said. "But nothing was ever done."

That was after the 1985-86 season. The thinking then was the deal might be too one-sided -- for the Rockets.

Sampson was 7-foot-4 and a star who'd help lead the Rockets to the Finals in 1986, where they lost in six games to one of the great Celtics teams. The belief was Houston would succeed Boston and the Lakers as the NBA's powerhouse.

"Ralph was a big commodity," Fitch recalled, "and Jordan really hadn't come into his own." 


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