Everyone makes mistakes. The NBA Draft history is full of the examples of tragic mishaps that general managers and NBA personnel have made over the history of the NBA. Of course, the NBA Draft has produced some of the NBA’s most brightest stars which include Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and so many more. However, for every superstar draft, there is always a bust. In this case, there have been particular NBA Draft busts that were selected over sure-fire Hall of Famers.
Again, everyone makes mistakes, though some draft selections have been outright questionable over the years. Here are five NBA draft busts that have were foolishly selected over Hall of Famers.
5. Sam Bowie
For those that were watching the NBA in the early 1980s, Sam Bowie was definitely a household name. He was a phenom in high school and college, and averaged 12.0 points and 8.0 rebounds a game during his freshman year with Kentucky. After a leg injury hindered his college career, Bowie eventually declared his eligibility for the NBA Draft. However, he was set to enter the famous 1984 NBA Draft, with greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and Michael Jordan. On that fateful day, Hakeem Olajuwon was taken with the first pick.
Bowie snubbed Michael Jordan as the second pick, and was drafted to the Portland Trailblazers. The Blazers’ reason for selecting Bowie was that they already had quality shooting guards in Clyde Drexler and Jim Paxson. The Blazers wanted a center and couldn’t select another shooting guard. With Olajuwon off the board, they got their center, and soon he left the team in five years. Bowie later retired after numerous leg injuries while Michael Jordan went on to become arguably the best basketball player in NBA history, making Bowie one of the most famous NBA Draft busts ever.
4. Reggie Williams
Remember the 1987 NBA Draft? This draft was known for its selection of star talent such as David Robinson, Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippin, and Kevin Johnson. Though, there is a big problem with this draft.
The Los Angeles Clippers made the foolish mistake to select Reggie Williams with the 4th pick, over Scottie Pippin, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant, and Reggie Miller. It’s not clear why the Clippers drafted Reggie Williams, but part of the reason must have been due to Williams’ outstanding collegiate play.
Reggie Williams and the Georgetown Hoyas won the 1984 NCAA championship because of the brilliant performance of Williams. Granted, Scottie Pippin was not widely known in the NBA scouting circle due to his tenure with the NAIA, but there is no dispute that Williams should have been taken in the 4th draft spot. At the close of Williams’ collegiate career, his highlight play dwindled and he continued to ride his reputation all throughout college. Once he was drafted, he played ten season, averaging a respectable 12.5 PPG and 4.0 boards per game. He then retired and faded into obscurity shortly after.
3. Kenny Green
In one of the most pathetic draft selections in NBA history, Kenny Green was selected one spot ahead of future Hall of Famer Karl Malone. The reason behind this foolish draft decision is unknown. Shockingly, the decision doesn’t add up considering that Green’s collegiate profile was obscure. All of the credible information about Kenny Green says that he was a 6’6 forward out of Wake Forest, who primarily played from 1982-1985. Yet, Green was selected with the 12th pick of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets. It truly doesn’t make any sense.
In Malone’s sophomore season with Louisiana Tech, he averaged an amazing 18.7 PPG and 9.3 RPG. Malone also helped the college to a 29-3 record in the 1984-1985 season. Malone was instrumental in bringing his team to the NCAA tournament, finishing in the Sweet 16 round. Still, somehow Malone was taken with the 13th pick of the 1985 Draft. Yet, the only insult is that Kenny Green was selected over him. Malone went on to become an MVP, Olympic Gold medalist, and the second all-time leading NBA scorer. Green left the NBA in three seasons after playing only 60 games.
2. Uwe Blab
Traveling further down the 1985 NBA Draft, Joe Dumars was selected with the 18th pick. Joe Dumars was considered to be a steal for the Detroit Pistons, and he later helped Isiah Thomas win the 1989 and 1990 NBA Finals. Uwe Blab was selected with the 17th pick in the draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Though, Uwe Blab retired from the NBA after a five-year career. What exactly went wrong? The Mavericks made a horrible decision.
Interestingly, Dumars averaged 22.5 PPG, which was the sixth best rate in the nation. Dumars even finished as the 11th leading NCAA scorer. Blab only averaged 16 PPG in his senior season, but he was selected over Dumars. The only thing that Blab managed to prove was that he was an inconsistent bench piece. He averaged 2.1 PPG and 1.8 RPG while playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs.
1. Rick Robey
The 1978 NBA Draft is long in the rearview mirror now, but it will always be remembered for housing one of the greatest talents of all time: Larry Bird. Bird has gone down as one of the greatest to ever play. Larry Bird was a consecutive member of the 50-40-90 club, and he is the only player to ever win Finals MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. Yet, who might you ask was drafted ahead of Bird? The answer lies in Rick Robey, the 3rd pick of the 1978 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers and one of the biggest forgotten NBA Draft busts (at least outside of the Hoosier state).
Robey had a relatively quiet collegiate career. His only defining moment came in the 1978 NCAA championship when he scored 20 points on 6-11 shooting. His performance was still overshadowed by Jack Givens, who scored 41 points to secure the title. Robey went on to win his first title, ironically alongside of Bird, in 1981. He only played eight years and scored 3,723 points in his entire career. He soon retired and became a real estate broker.
What were the Pacers thinking when they passed on Larry Bird, an Indiana native, to select Robey? The answer isn’t clear, but with each of these horrible draft decisions, hopefully better decisions can be made in the future.