Skip to content

Did Sam Bowie mislead Portland doctors before 1984 draft?

Dec 13, 2012, 8:44 AM EDT

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. Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: Golden State exposed Clippers’ defense

    Apr 1, 2015, 1:34 AM EDT

    Matt Barnes, Stephen Curry AP

    We may have to watch the Nets in the playoffs. Lord help us all.

  2. Stephen Curry drops Chris Paul with behind-the-back move (VIDEO)

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:50 AM EDT

    Stephen Curry, Chris Paul Stephen Curry, Chris Paul

    Curry just dropped the best defensive point guard in the NBA.

  3. Anthony Davis says James Harden should be MVP

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Curry and Harden seem to be the frontrunners.

  4. Kevin Durant posts picture from hospital bed, thanks fans, “NBA brothers”

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    2015 NBA All-Star Game Getty Images

    “Not what I envisioned coming into this season. But I’m here and ready to conquer this journey.” —Kevin Durant

  5. Shaq takes shots at Lakers, Clippers during Justin Bieber roast

    Mar 31, 2015, 7:59 PM EDT

    Shaquille O'Neal AP

    Which is easier to insult, the Lakers or Justin Bieber?

  6. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, Terry Rozier declare for NBA draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT

    Northern Iowa v Louisville AP

    Harrell a potential lottery pick, Rozier a potential first rounder

  7. Celebrating the bond between Spurs, San Antonio

    Mar 31, 2015, 6:29 PM EDT

    Lupe Lemos Lupe Lemos

    It’s impossible to ever really define and entire large city in one bit of writing. But this story comes as close to defining the intricate relationship of San Antonio with the Spurs as you are going to see.

  8. Stop judging J.J. Redick by his Duke days if you haven’t already

    Mar 31, 2015, 5:38 PM EDT

    J.J. Redick, Avery Bradley AP

    Redick, who once looked like a bust given oversized expectations, playing big role for surging Clippers

  9. Phil Jackson asks Knicks fans to “remain optimistic”

    Mar 31, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT

    New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Knicks fans should be patient with this season. Optimistic… that’s a tough sell.

  10. LeBron says he’s ‘got three very good friends in this league,’ none play for the Cavaliers

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:59 PM EDT

    Lebrion James, Dwyane Wade AP

    LeBron names his three, and says after that he has ‘a bunch of teammates.’

  11. Report: Rockets’ Patrick Beverley to need four months of recovery following season-ending surgery

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Patrick Beverley AP

    It had been hoped that Beverley might be available to return later in the postseason.

  12. Thunder say Kevin Durant underwent successful bone graft surgery, will return in 4-6 months

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

    Kevin Durant AP

    We already knew Durant was done for the season, but the Thunder have updated his status.

  13. Draymond Green no longer selling ‘Cool story, Glenn’ shirts, may miss next game vs. Clippers

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Draymond Green AP

    Green is trying to downplay rivalry with Clippers coach, and is dealing with inflammation in his shins.

  14. Kyrie Irving on his relationship with LeBron James: ‘I don’t want to say it’s not been rocky at all’

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Things are clicking now in Cleveland, but it wasn’t that way at the beginning of the season.

  15. Flip Saunders (sort of) makes up with Jazz broadcaster after ripping him for saying Timberwolves were tanking

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    Flip Saunders AP

    Interaction ended with a handshake, but it seemed evident Saunders remained displeased.

  16. Lance Stephenson receives DNP-CD in Hornets’ loss to Celtics

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Charlotte Hornets v Sacramento Kings Charlotte Hornets v Sacramento Kings

    Hornets were fighting for a playoff spot, but their big free agent acquisition sat on the bench.

  17. Kings considering shutting down DeMarcus Cousins for remainder of season

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    DeMarcus Cousins AP

    Team has nothing left to play for, and Cousins has some nagging injuries.

Featured video

Clippers playoffs? MCW shooting? Your twitter questions answered.
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. H. Whiteside (6147)
  2. K. Durant (5437)
  3. D. Wade (5308)
  4. K. Martin (5200)
  5. K. Lowry (5113)
  1. G. Monroe (5099)
  2. D. Rose (4947)
  3. P. George (4785)
  4. B. Knight (4736)
  5. R. Rubio (4689)