Skip to content

Did Sam Bowie mislead Portland doctors before 1984 draft?

Dec 13, 2012, 8:44 AM EST

Sam Bowie Getty Images

It is one of the legendary misses of the NBA Draft.

In 1984 Houston had the first pick and took Hakeem Olajuwon in a move no sane person has ever questioned.

But with the second pick in the draft the Portland Trail Blazers took Kentucky center Sam Bowie over North Carolina guard Michael Jordan. Yes, that Michael Jordan. (Charles Barkley, Sam Perkins and John Stockton were also drafted later in that year.) The way the game was played then it was thought you needed a great true center to win (the Lakers had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Celtics had Robert Parish at the time) and that a guard alone couldn’t win a title. Jordan changed that dynamic while Bowie had a career plagued by foot and leg problems and never came near his potential.

Now comes Bowie saying he was not honest with the Portland doctors at the time, the revelation part of a documentary called “Going Big,” which will air on ESPNU Dec. 20 (hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie).

“I can still remember them taking a little mallet, and when they would hit me on my left tibia, and ‘I don’t feel anything’ I would tell ‘em. But deep down inside, it was hurting. If what I did was lying and what I did was wrong, at the end of the day, when you have loved ones that have some needs, I did what any of us would have done…

“I’m 51 years old now and my legs are broke down. I’m very proud, don’t feel like I owe an apology to anyone. The bottom line is: Sam Bowie was drafted before Michael Jordan and you’re gonna have to accept that.”

Bowie had suffered a stress fracture as a sophomore at Kentucky, one that took a couple years to heal, and that was the start of the leg issues that held up his pro career. The revelation that he lied to Portland and NBA doctors about his health before the draft is new.

When ESPN used the quote above to promote their documentary, Bowie denied it to the Oregonian.

“Anybody that knows me, from the hierarchy in the Portland Trail Blazers during my playing days to my teammates to my friends and family, knows I would never deceive or trick or lie to anybody,” Bowie told The Oregonian during a phone interview Wednesday. “I wasn’t raised that way. You can call me a lot of things, but don’t look at me as though I deceived or tricked (the organization).

“I thought I would play 15 years and win a couple championships with the Blazers…

“My discomfort wasn’t to the point where I would say to the Portland Trail Blazers or anyone else, ‘My leg is extremely sore. I wouldn’t draft me. I don’t think I’m going to play a full career in the NBA,’” Bowie told The Oregonian. “That wasn’t the situation at all. The thing that bothers me is that I’m looked upon in some way as a liar. That’s never been my demeanor, my makeup, my character. By no means was I tricking or was it a premeditated position to lie and give somebody damaged goods. To say that I deliberately went into the Portland Trail Blazers’ front office and completely lied to them about my physical being could not be further form the truth.”

As teams do now, Portland had a full battery of tests done on Bowie before they drafted him, including X-rays and MRIs. They looked at everything. The doctors said he was good to go, Portland (which already had a promising young two guard in Clyde Drexler) went with the big man.

The rest of it is history.

Latest Posts
  1. Josh Smith calls Hawks fans “bandwagoners”

    Mar 4, 2015, 1:55 AM EST

    Houston Rockets v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Hawks fans booed Smith every time he touched the ball.

  2. Josh Smith rattles in 3-pointer, taunts booing Hawks fans (video)

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:33 PM EST

    Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague

    Smith can’t stop shooting 3s, though, and you know how that ends

  3. Report: Celtics’ top free-agent target is Kevin Love, Greg Monroe No. 2

    Mar 3, 2015, 8:08 PM EST

    Kevin Love, Greg Monroe AP

    Boston reportedly also plans to try for Marc Gasol, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler

  4. Report: Mavericks, Heat in long line of teams interested in JaVale McGee

    Mar 3, 2015, 5:50 PM EST

    JaVale McGee JaVale McGee

    The list for him is much longer than just two teams. Much longer.

  5. Nuggets need to decide direction, then hire coach

    Mar 3, 2015, 5:08 PM EST

    Kenneth Faried, Brian Shaw AP

    What kind of team are they trying to build.

  6. Kyrie Irving a gametime decision for Cavaliers vs. Celtics

    Mar 3, 2015, 2:55 PM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    Irving has missed two straight games with a shoulder strain.

  7. Pacers’ David West on Nuggets firing Brian Shaw: ‘That’s bullsh-t. No grownups on the roster.’

    Mar 3, 2015, 2:10 PM EST

    Indiana Pacers v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Shaw was an assistant coach in Indiana before landing the head coaching spot in Denver.

  8. Nuggets have fired head coach Brian Shaw

    Mar 3, 2015, 12:38 PM EST

    Brian Shaw AP

    Nuggets are 20-39 this season.

  9. Matt Barnes says if he was the one who kicked LeBron, league would have tried to put him in jail

    Mar 3, 2015, 12:30 PM EST

    Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Barnes isn’t wrong that the punishment for him doing something like this would have been much more severe.

  10. J.J. Redick ejected for complaining to officials, says Flip Saunders told him to ‘shut the f— up’

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:50 AM EST

    J.J. Redick, Scott Twardoski J.J. Redick, Scott Twardoski

    Clippers have a reputation with the referees, which likely was why Redick was tossed for seemingly innocuous comments.

Featured video

Is Derrick Rose the next Penny Hardaway?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Westbrook (7518)
  2. K. Durant (7120)
  3. D. Rose (6571)
  4. D. Cousins (6541)
  5. A. Davis (6155)
  1. D. Howard (6113)
  2. L. James (6068)
  3. J. Harden (5803)
  4. K. Irving (5787)
  5. P. George (5561)