It's hard to call Jordan a draft surprise since he was the College Player of the Year at North Carolina and the No. 3 overall pick in 1984. But who knew he would turn out to be, you know, the greatest player of all time? If the Portland Trail Blazers knew that, they surely wouldn't have taken Sam Bowie with the No. 2 pick. And even the Houston Rockets might have thought twice before taking Akeem Olajuwon at No. 1. The Bulls had to be pleasantly surprised when Jordan became a five-time MVP, 14-time All-Star and six-time champion.
Steve Nash, 1996 No. 15 overall
The fans in Phoenix didn't approve of the Suns' 1996 first-round pick at the time, but Nash would become arguably the greatest player in franchise history. After spending six seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, he returned to Phoenix and led a remarkable turnaround that included consecutive Western Conference finals appearances. His efforts earned him back-to-back league MVP honors and eight All-Star selections.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Karl Malone, 1985 No. 13 overall
Malone was a two-time MVP and is second on the league's all-time scoring list. He helped led the Jazz to Western Conference titles in 1997 and 1998, but both times were denied a championship by Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
Nate 'Tiny' Archibald, 1970 No. 19 overall
Scared off by his slight frame, every NBA team passed up the 6-foot-1, 150-pound Archibald in the first round of the 1970 draft. Taken by the Cincinnati Royals in the second round, Archibald proved to be unguardable with his speed and shifty moves. In his third year he became the only player to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season. The six-time All-Star won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 1981 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDick Raphael
John Stockton, 1984 No. 16 overall
Both Stockton and Karl Malone turned out to be incredible draft steals for the Utah Jazz, who enjoyed two decades of brilliance from both Hall of Famers. Stockton finished his career as the NBA's all-time leader in assists and steals.
Getty ImagesBrian Bahr
Tony Parker, 2001 No. 28 overall
Parker was not a star for the Spurs early in his career. He was benched in the 2003 NBA Finals, and rumors of a trade for Jason Kidd followed after winning the championship. But Parker grew into a leader in San Antonio for more than a decade and earned the 2007 NBA Finals MVP.
Bob DonnanBob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Kobe Bryant, 1996 No. 13 overall
A deal between the Hornets and Lakers prior to the 1996 draft sent Charlotte's No. 13 overall pick to LA. Taking a 17-year-old out of high school was risky, but Bryant erased any doubts about his game quickly. He won his second title against No. 1 overall pick Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals. The 14-time All-Star won five championships.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY SportsTim Fuller
Dirk Nowitzki, 1998 No. 9 overall
Despite taking him ninth, the Bucks apparently didn't think Nowitzki would amount to much in the NBA. They traded him on draft day for Robert "Tractor" Traylor, then watched the German teenager turn around the Dallas Mavericks franchise. Nowitzki helped end the Mavs' decade-long playoff drought and turned them into a perennial title contender. He was named 2007 NBA MVP and led the Mavs to their first title in 2011.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
Alex English, 1976 No. 23 overall
English was a second-round pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1976, but it wasn't until he was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 1980 that he established himself as a prolific scorer. English scored more points than any NBA player in the 1980s and was an eight-time All-Star while leading the Nuggets to nine consecutive playoff appearances. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.
NBAE/Getty ImagesBrian Drake
Dennis Rodman, 1986 No. 27 overall
Even in basketball circles, hardly anyone knew anything about Rodman when he was picked by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 1986 draft. Coming out of Southeastern Oklahoma State, then an NAIA school, Rodman became one of the greatest rebounders and defenders in league history. He led the NBA in rebounding every year from 1992-98 and was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and '91. He won two championships with the Pistons and three more with the Chicago Bulls before getting inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNathaniel S. Butler
Manu Ginobili, 1999 No. 57 overall
The San Antonio Spurs struck lottery gold in 1987 and 1997, taking David Robinson and Tim Duncan with those No. 1 picks. But a big part of their success is also due to the shrewd selections of Ginobili (20), the second-to-last pick in 1999, and Parker (9), the last pick of the first round in 2001. The two joined Duncan to form a "Big Three" in San Antonio and won four NBA championship together. Ginobili was the league's Sixth Man of the Year in 2008.