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The 2023 NBA Draft will be a pivotal event where franchises jostle to find the next diamond in the rough or transformative superstar. Throughout the history of the National Basketball Association, there have been many moments that shaped the landscape of the game.
From legendary picks to blockbuster trades, let’s revisit 10 great moments in NBA Draft history.
1984: The Era-defining Draft
No conversation about great NBA Draft moments can begin without discussion of the 1984 draft. This monumental event saw the birth of a rivalry for the ages.
The Portland Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie with the second overall pick, allowing the Chicago Bulls to take advantage and select Michael Jordan.
This decision turned the Bulls into a dynasty and made Jordan a global icon. Jordan went on to win six NBA championships, five MVPs, and became widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time.
1996: A Draft for the Ages
The 1996 NBA Draft is widely regarded as one of the most star-studded classes in history. With players like Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash, it was a draft that would forever change the league.
However, the standout moment came when the Charlotte Hornets traded the rights to Kobe Bryant, who was selected 13th overall, to the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant went on to become an 18-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion, and one of the most accomplished players in basketball history.
2003: LeBron James Arrives
In 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers were blessed with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. They selected an 18-year-old phenom from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School named LeBron James. This pick ushered in a new era for the Cavaliers and the league itself.
James quickly became the face of the NBA and delivered Cleveland its first-ever NBA championship in 2016, etching his name into basketball lore. With four MVPs and four NBA championships, James continues to dominate the league even today.
2009: The Thunder’s Booming Draft Day
The 2009 NBA Draft showcased the Oklahoma City Thunder’s brilliance in building a young and talented roster. They selected James Harden with the third overall pick, completing a trio of future MVPs that included Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
This draft laid the foundation for the Thunder’s rise as one of the league’s most exciting teams and served as a testament to their remarkable scouting and drafting abilities. Harden went on to win an MVP award and establish himself as one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.
2013: The Trade that Shaped the Future
Draft night in 2013 witnessed a trade that would transform the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets for years to come. The Nets acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, two future Hall of Famers, in exchange for a treasure trove of draft picks.
This move rejuvenated the Celtics’ franchise while the Nets struggled in the aftermath. The trade set the stage for Boston’s resurgence leading to multiple deep playoff runs. The Celtics’ rebuild was propelled by the talents of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, two key players drafted with those acquired picks.
2016: With the 13th Pick Overall
In 2016, the Golden State Warriors selected a relatively unknown player from Washington State University with the 13th overall pick: Klay Thompson.
Alongside Stephen Curry, Thompson formed the “Splash Brothers” and became an integral part of the Warriors’ dynasty. Their lethal shooting, combined with their defensive prowess, propelled Golden State to multiple NBA championships and forever altered the league’s landscape.
1998: The Nowitzki Deal
The 1998 NBA Draft witnessed a trade that would forever change the Dallas Mavericks franchise. The Milwaukee Bucks selected Dirk Nowitzki with the ninth overall pick, but his rights were traded to the Mavericks for Robert Traylor.
Nowitzki went on to become arguably the greatest player in Mavericks history, leading them to their first NBA championship in 2011 and earning the distinction of being a 14-time All-Star and a one-time MVP.
2008: The Rise of Rose in Chicago
The 2008 NBA Draft brought hope to the Chicago Bulls when they selected Derrick Rose as the first overall pick. Rose electrified the league, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to win the MVP award in 2011.
He brought the Bulls back to prominence, leading them to the best record in the league during the 2010-2011 season. Though injuries hampered Rose’s career, his impact on the Bulls and his rise to stardom remain indelible.
2017: The Donovan Mitchell Steal
The 2017 NBA Draft saw the Utah Jazz make a trade with the Denver Nuggets, acquiring the rights to Donovan Mitchell, who was selected 13th overall.
Mitchell quickly emerged as a star, leading the Jazz to multiple playoff appearances and earning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest title in his rookie year. He became the face of the franchise and a dynamic scoring threat, solidifying his status as one of the top young players in the league.
1985: The Patrick Ewing Lottery
The 1985 NBA Draft marked the highly anticipated selection of Patrick Ewing, a dominant force from Georgetown University. The New York Knicks won the draft lottery, securing the rights to Ewing and transforming the franchise’s fortunes.
Ewing became the centerpiece of the Knicks’ success, leading them to two NBA Finals appearances. His impact on the team and his legendary status in New York solidified his place as one of the greatest centers in NBA history.
The NBA Draft has provided many unforgettable moments throughout its history, from franchise-altering picks to game-changing trades. These moments have shaped the league and left a permanent mark on the franchises involved, leading to dynasties, championships, and the emergence of basketball legends.
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