So you’re a fan of an NBA team other than the Cavs or T-Wolves (thank God) and you’re worried that your squad won’t be able to land in impact player in Thursday’s draft. Word on the street is that this year’s draft class is uglier than Shawn Marion’s jumper and conventional wisdom says that players drafted outside the lottery rarely pan out.
But if we take a journey through history, we will find that All-Star players have been snagged at every spot. With that, let’s look at the top players selected at overall picks 1-30 in NBA history.
No. 1: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1969 by the Milwaukee Bucks
Kareem’s numbers speak for themselves: 38,387 points, 19 All-Star appearances, six rings, and six MVP awards. That’s enough to make him the best No. 1 overall pick of all-time.
No. 2: Bill Russell in 1956 by the St. Louis Hawks
You’ve got to feel a little bad for the Rochester Royals who passed on the ultimate champion for Sihugo Green in the 1956 NBA draft. Russell never looked back, going on to win 11 championships in 13 seasons with the Celtics
No. 3: Michael Jordan in 1984 by the Chicago Bulls
No explanation needed.
No. 4: Dolph Schayes in 1948 by the New York Knicks
The No. 4 pick in the 1948 draft, Schayes played in 12 All-Star games and posted 18,438 career points in 15 seasons with the Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers.
No. 5: Kevin Garnett in 1995 by the Minnesota Timberwolves
KG and fellow No. 5 overall pick Charles Barkley have put up similar career numbers. Both have notched 20,000+ points, 12,000+ rebounds, and have taken home one MVP award. But the Big Ticket separates himself from Barkley because of his ring with the Celtics in 2008.
No. 6: Larry Bird in 1978 by the Boston Celtics
The sixth pick of the 1978 draft, Larry Legend earns the top spot thanks to his 13 seasons averaging at least 19 points per game. Bird earned three titles and three MVP awards with the Celtics.
No. 7: John Havlicek in 1962 by the Boston Celtics
The fourth Celtic to make the list, Havlicek appeared in 13 All-Star games and won eight titles. The Hall of Famer averaged over 20 points per game throughout his career, putting him slightly ahead of fellow No. 7 picks Chris Mullin and Bernard King.
No. 8: Willis Reed in 1964 by the New York Knicks
Despite owning two fewer rings than Robert Parish (the No. 8 overall pick in the 1976 draft), Reed earns the top spot. Reed dropped 18.7 points per game throughout his career and earned the 1970 MVP award after averaging 22 and 14 for the Knicks.
No. 9: Dirk Nowitzki in 1998 by the Milwaukee Bucks
Dirk cemented his position as one of the greatest to ever play the game this month when he led the Mavs to their first championship in franchise history. The German import has been selected for the All-Star game 10 times and took home the 2007 NBA MVP award.
No. 10: Paul Pierce in 1998 by the Boston Celtics
Pierce earns the honor of the best No. 10 overall pick of all time over Paul Westphal primarily because I grew up watching The Truth drop buckets while the Celtics wallowed in mediocrity. (Part of me misses the days when I could sneak into the third row of the TD Garden to watch Tony Allen blow out his knee trying to dunk after the whistle or see Sebastian Telfair brick jumpers for just $10.) Pierce is also deserving because of his nine All-Star appearances and 2008 Finals MVP award.