The draft class of 1984 has gone down as one of the most stacked in NBA history. It consists of 4 Hall of Famers, and possibly another candidate who was really unfortunate because of injuries. 7 All-Stars in total were drafted among the first 16 players, and most of the first round picks lasted beyond their rookie contract in the league - something that doesn't happen often in NBA history.
Having said that, some teams like the Trail Blazers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Washington Bullets and the Los Angeles Clippers messed up with their draft picks big time, and paid the price of lowered ceilings for years to come. The possibility of a Drexler/Jordan backcourt in Portland has been one of the biggest what-ifs in basketball history.
Looking back today, we attempt to redraft the 10 best players in the draft based on their peaks, career achievements and impact on the game. Without further ado, here goes our redraft of the 1984 draft class:
With the 10th pick, the Philadelphia 76ers select Vern Fleming
Vern Fleming was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the #18 overall pick in the 1984 draft. He played 11 years of his NBA career for the franchise, and was a crucial member of their guard rotation all through it barring the last, averaging over 19 minutes per game. He was relegated to a bench role from the 1990-91 season with the emergence of Mark Jackson, but was very much still in their long-term plans.
His best season was the 1987-88 campaign, when he averaged 13.9 points, 7.1 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Fleming played out the final season of his career with the New Jersey Nets at the age of 34, averaging 3.3 assists per game in 22 minutes of playing time and giving valuable veteran experience to Jason Kidd.
Fleming ended with career averages of 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
With the 9th pick, the Kansas City Kings select Anthony Campbell
Anthony Campbell was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 20th overall pick in the 1984 draft. Considering that he played for 11 years in the league as a small forward, with 224 starts, he can be considered one of the steals of the draft (although a certain point guard drafted at #16 is unarguably the biggest steal of this class).
Tony Campbell spent 3 seasons with the Pistons before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he won an NBA championship ring in 1988. He was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the expansion draft of 1989, and proceeded to put together the best statistical seasons of his career at the small forward position.
He played all 82 games of the 1989-90 season, averaging 23.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. The following season he continued in the same vein, averaging 21.8 points per game, although the Timberwolves were among the worst teams in the division even then.
Campbell finished out his career with spells at the New York Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks and a final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers (1994-95). He averaged 11.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game through the course of his career.
With the 8th pick, the Los Angeles Clippers select Sam Perkins
Sam Perkins was a member of the North Carolina Tar Heels team that won the 1982 NCAA championship, alongside Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and James Worthy. He declared for the draft along with Jordan in 1984, and was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the 4th pick.
Perkins played 17 years in the league, and made 3 NBA Finals - one each with the Lakers (1991), the SuperSonics (1996) and the Pacers (2000). He ended up on the losing side each time, but he was always a significant contributor on the scoreboard.
Perkins' career is not littered with accomplishments and accolades the way other players on this draft board are, but he did make the All-Rookie team in 1985, and his NBA career was nearly 4 times as longer as the average player. Never was he viewed as a minus player, and that is more than can be said for 80% of the players in any draft class.
With the 7th pick, the San Antonio Spurs select Otis Thorpe
A slasher par excellence, Otis Thorpe was one of the most reliable guards in the league for most of his professional career. In his first 12 professional seasons, he tallied appearances in all 82 games 8 times. Drafted by the Sacramento Kings (then the Kansas City Kings), Thorpe was one of the most impressive prospects in the league right from his rookie season.
He played with the Kings for 4 seasons before signing with the Houston Rockets as a free agent in 1988. Despite his scoring role being considerably reduced in H-Town, Thorpe continued in the same vein, averaging over 9 rebounds and 14 points in 5 of his six-and-a-half seasons. He made an All-Star game appearance in the 1991-92 season, despite it not being one of his better statistical years.
In his penultimate year with the Rockets, he was a crucial component of their Clutch City championship run in 1993-94. He was traded midseason to the Portland Trail Blazers in 1994-95 as a 32-year-old, signalling that he'd finished out his peak as a player.
Thorpe continued to play in the league till the 2000-01 season, and has a commendable NBA career.
With the 6th pick, the Washington Bullets select Kevin Willis (traded to the Cavaliers)
Kevin Willis was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 11th pick of the 1984 NBA draft. In a 22-year career littered with individual and team accolades, Willis was regarded as one of the most reliable and durable players in the league. He spent his first 10 seasons in Atlanta as one of the stars of the franchise alongside Dominique Wilkins.
His best statistical season was 1991-92, tallying season averages of 18.3 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. He made the Eastern Conference All-Star team and the All-NBA Third Team that season, and was unlucky not to do so in the 3 seasons after that.
He was traded to the Miami Heat early in the 1994-95 season aged 32 and gave them another season of All Star caliber play. Advancing age caught up with him, but Willis remained a valuable contributor off the bench for the Raptors, Denver, Houston and finally the San Antonio Spurs, with whom he won his only championship in 2003.
Willis retired after the 2006-07 season which he spent with the Dallas Mavericks, and is second on the list of oldest players in NBA history.
With the 5th pick, the Philadelphia 76ers select Alvin Robertson
Robertson's stellar career was tragically cut short by injury, but as perimeter defenders go, he is second to no one in NBA history. He holds the all-time record for steals per game average at 2.71, and is one of only 4 players in league history to record a quadruple-double.
He was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 7th pick in the 1984 draft, and instantly became their best two-way player following the regression of George Gervin - an all-time franchise legend. His emergence as a star was confirmed by his second season, when he made the All-Star team, the All-NBA Second Team, First Team All-Defense and was named as the Defensive Player of the Year for that season, averaging an NBA record 3.7 steals per game.
He made 4 All-Star teams in his career (1986-1988, 1991). Despite playing only 5 seasons for the Spurs, he is third in franchise history for steals (1129 total). He played for the Milwaukee Bucks from 1989-1992, before getting traded to the Pistons - spending half a season there before going down with the back injuries which would end his career prematurely.
Robertson was drafted by the Raptors in the expansion draft of 1995, but only played one more season before leaving the game for good.
With the 4th pick, the Dallas Mavericks select John Stockton
For the length of his playing career, John Stockton was regarded as the epitome of how a point guard should play. He played 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz and is universally regarded as one of the two greatest players in their franchise history.
Stockton was named to 11 All-NBA teams (2 in the first team, 6 in the second team and 3 in the third team), and was a member of the original Dream Team that competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Stockton was never obsessed with scoring. He always saw himself as a player making the best basketball play at a given moment, and that is the reason why he is, by some distance, the greatest assist-giver in the history of the game. For 9 consecutive seasons, he led the league in assists per game. He also holds the record for assists per game average for a season with an unreal 14.5 apg.
He's the only player with 6 or more seasons averaging more than 12 assists per game (8). He made 2 NBA Finals, losing them to Michael Jordan's Bulls teams. Stockton was also never affected by a major injury, setting a record for most games played with a single franchise (1504). He holds the record for highest percentage of games available for, at 98.6% (among players with over 1000 appearances).
Stockton was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
With the 3rd pick, the Chicago Bulls select Charles Barkley
Charles 'The Round Mound of Rebound' Barkley is one of the most iconic figures in basketball history. Despite being an undersized power forward (he was listed at a generous 6'6"), Barkley consistently led his team in rebounding. He crashed the offensive glass with vigour, and never in his 16-year career did he average less than 3 offensive rebounds per game.
He led the league in rebounding in his third season with an average of 14.6 per game, and never failed to average more than 10 rebounds per 36 minutes. Barkley made 11 All-NBA teams, five teams each on the First and Second teams and once on the Third team.
Barkley won the MVP award for the 1992-93 regular season, leading his new team the Phoenix Suns to a league-leading 62-20 record. He eventually lost to Michael Jordan's Bulls in the Finals 4-2, and never made it to that stage again.
Barkley, like Stockton, was also a member of the Dream Team in 1992, widely regarded as the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled. Today, he is a member of the Emmy Award-winning NBA analysis show Inside the NBA along with Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Ernie Johnson. He was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
With the 2nd pick, the Portland Trail Blazers select Akeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon is widely regarded as one of the greatest centers of all time. Listed at 7' although his actual height is closer to 6'9", The Dream sports not only one of the most appropriate nicknames in basketball history, but was also the most dominant player at his position during a time with the greatest field of talent at center.
Olajuwon had an accolade-filled 18-year career in the league, making 12 All-NBA teams and 12 All-Star Game appearances. He has 9 All-Defensive team selections, won each of the MVP award, Defensive Player of the Year and the Finals MVP award twice. He is the only player to win MVP, All-Star Game MVP, DPOY and Finals MVP awards in the same year.
His footwork in the low post is considered the best in history, and has been copied by several players over the course of the last 20 years. The Dream won 2 championships (in 1994 and 1995) and is widely renowned as one of the greatest defenders of all time.
At his best, Hakeem was a two-way beast who would not be stopped by anyone bigger, stronger or faster than him - Shaquille O'Neal tried and failed in the 1995 NBA Finals. He is a living legend in H-Town, and continues to coach centers in post moves to this day.
With the 1st overall pick, the Houston Rockets select Michael Jordan
A Google search on 'greatest athlete of all time' puts Michael Jordan right at the top of the scrolling list beneath the search column. What Google, or images like the one above, or YouTube highlight compilations, or thousands of words cannot describe with anything close to adequacy is the complete upheaval Jordan caused in the sporting world.
Not only was he the greatest to ever do it, he was also the easiest player on the eye, starting with his sneakers, his baggy shorts, each one of his moves and the way His Airness could hang in the air for way too long to be humanly possible. Michael Jordan was the greatest player, and also the most artistic in his manner. One could argue that he should have replaced The Logo on the NBA logo way back, but the time is past now.
With 6 championships and Finals MVPs, 5 regular season MVPs, 11 All-NBA selections, 14 All-Star game appearances, 10 All-Defensive Team selections and 2 Olympic gold medals, Jordan is probably the most decorated basketball player of all time. As well as the most celebrated and revered. Jordan's legacy will last forever in the game.