Best NBA Draft in history: 2003 or 1984?

Best NBA Draft in history: 2003 or 1984?

Published Jan. 15, 2013 8:27 p.m. ET

Looking back at the two greatest NBA Drafts in recent history in 1984 and 2003, both appear eerily similar.

The 2003 draft produced some of the greatest players in the league today. No. 1 pick LeBron James has lived up to the hype and even exceeded expectations. Like some of the greats in NBA history, he has redefined the way the game is played. You have to go back to Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson to find somebody as dominant and versatile as him. At No. 3 and fresh off winning a national championship at Syracuse, New York's Carmelo Anthony has become one of the most dominant scorers ever. I drafted Carmelo while I was general manager at Denver and could only have hoped he would become this good. Heat center Chris Bosh, the No. 4 pick overall pick by Toronto, has become one of the best big men in the game. And at No. 5, Miami's Dwyane Wade already has two World Championships under his belt and is almost as dangerous and versatile as runningmate LeBron.

All of these players are destined to be in the Hall of Fame and will continue to dominate the NBA many years to come.

The 1984 draft, meanwhile, produced iconic superstar Michael Jordan, who was the best player of his generation and perhaps the best player of all time. It also featured first overall pick Hakeem Olajuwon of the Rockets, Philadelphia's Charles Barkley and Utah's John Stockton.

These players were all perennial All-Stars and were amongst the most dominant at their positions that the NBA has ever known.

Despite producing seven All-Stars (Jordan, Olajuwon, Barkley, Stockton, Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe and Kevin Willis) and combining for 50 All-Star appearances, the 1984 draft also featured one major flop. The Portland Trail Blazers passed up on Jordan, instead selecting Sam Bowie with the No. 2 pick.

Bowie, although talented, dealt with injuries that prevented him from living up to expectations. I was playing for the Trail Blazers at that time and lived through that saga.

Now imagine if the Trail Blazers had taken Michael Jordan and paired him in the backcourt with Clyde Drexler? Jordan and Drexler paired together could have been the greatest backcourt in NBA history.

Similarly, the 2003 draft produced eight All-Stars (Anthony, Bosh, Howard, James, Kaman, Wade, David West and Mo Williams), but also had one notable flop up top.

With the second overall pick, the Detroit Pistons took Serbian Darko Milicic. Milicic looked to have it all. He was big, fast and a great shooter, but he never could seem to put it all together.

I remember we had the third pick in Denver that year and were very worried that Darko would fall to us. Although his agent called before the draft to inform us know that Pistons general manager Joe Dumars guaranteed he would take Darko with the second overall pick, there are a lot of mind games played around draft time, so nobody really believed that until it actually happened.

So while both the 1984 and 2003 remain similar, the complete book on the 2003 draft has yet to be written. Aside from the complete dominance of Michael Jordan and all his championships, I would rank the 2003 draft ahead. I have yet to remember a more dominant draft aside from these two, but the 2013 draft is just around the corner and one can always hope.

In the NBA there is an old saying in NBA that says if you are going to make a mistake, make it with a big player.

The Trail Blazers are all too familiar with that saying.

Portland has had two disastrous big picks, both followed by players who went on to become superstars.

In 1984, Bowie was taken ahead of Jordan. Then in 2007, Portland passed up on Kevin Durant, instead selected Greg Oden with the No. 1 overall pick. While Durant continues to light up the NBA, Oden has played in just 82 games over two season and is currently looking to make a comeback after missing over three years due to his injury-riddled NBA career.

Now imagine how fortunes would have changed if Chicago was without Jordan and Oden was in Oklahoma City instead of Durant.

That would rewrite a lot of history.