A few months back, I wrote a column about how 1984 was the greatest year in Hollywood history. More blockbusters came out of that year than any other — even 1939 with “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
That was one heck of a year because it also brought us some of the best basketball players in history via the 1984 NBA Draft.
With pro teams starting to hold workouts for potential draftees, let’s look at some of the best drafts in history and see which is the best.
Basically, I think it’s a two-class race between 1984 and 1996 — probably best known as Air Jordan and the guy who wanted to become Jordan in Kobe.
Before we get to them, here are my choices for the best drafts, positioned third, fourth and fifth.
3. 2003 Draft
Notable players: LeBron James (1), Carmelo Anthony (3), Chris Bosh (4), Dwyane Wade (5), David West (18), Boris Diaw (21), Josh Howard (30)
Outside of Darko Milicic in the No. 2 slot, James, Anthony, Bosh and Wade are all future Hall of Famers, and three of them have multiple championships.
4. 1985 Draft
Notable players: Patrick Ewing (1), Xavier McDaniel (4), Chris Mullin (7), Detlef Schrempf (8), Charles Oakley (9), Karl Malone (13), Joe Dumars (18), Terry Porter (24)
The 1985 Draft contained three members of the Dream Team in Ewing, Malone and Mullin. Ewing and Malone never won an NBA title, but Malone was a 14-time All-Star and two-time MVP while Ewing was an 11-time All-Star. If you want rings, Dumars won two with the Pistons and was a six-time All-Star.
5. 1998 Draft
Notable players: Mike Bibby (2), Antawn Jamison (4), Vince Carter (5), Dirk Nowitzki (9), Paul Pierce (10), Rashard Lewis (33)
Michael Olowokandi didn’t do much as the first overall pick, but the 1998 Draft contains three future Hall of Famers in Carter, Nowitzki and Pierce. Jamison and Lewis were each two-time All-Stars, and though Bibby never received that honor, he came close on several occasions.
So how about those top two spots? First some names, then we’ll compare.
The 1984 Draft
Notable players: Hakeem Olajuwon (1), Michael Jordan (3), Sam Perkins (4) Charles Barkley (5), Alvin Robertson (7), Otis Thorpe (9), Kevin Willis (11), Jay Humphries (13), Michael Cage (14), John Stockton (16), Jerome Kersey (46), Rick Carlisle (70)
Oscar Schmidt is another Hall of Famer from this class, although he never played in the NBA. The Brazilian star played in four different Olympics and finished his career with more points than anyone in the NBA.
Jordan is the best player in NBA history. Olajuwon, Barkley and Stockton are each arguably one of the top three players at their respective positions.
The 1996 Draft
Obviously this class is led by Kobe Bryant, but here are a dozen of the Black Mamba’s fellow ‘96 draftees:
Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Marcus Camby, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovic, Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Derek Fisher, Antoine Walker, Kerry Kittles.
How about some stats?
The Class of ‘84 had 10 players who scored 10,000 or more points in a career. The Class of ‘96 had 11 players reach that.
The Class of ‘96 had eight players grab 5,000 or more rebounds and four get 5,000 or more assists. While ‘84 had eight rebounders, too, there were only two with 5,000 assists.
But to be fair, one of those two assist men was Stockton, the all-time leader with 15,806 assists. And in case you didn’t know it, Stockton also is the league’s all-time leader in steals with 3,265.
And of the Class of ‘84 rebounders, four players had 10,000 rebounds (led by Olajuwon with 13,748).
None of the players drafted in 1996 reached 10,000 boards — Marcus Camby was closest at 9,513. However, if you add in a terrific player who went undrafted, Ben Wallace adds 10,482 boards and four defensive player of the year awards.
The entire ‘84 class only had three defensive player of the year awards, but that is because Dennis Rodman and Dikembe Mutombo were in their primes (six combined).
One area where the ‘96 class really excels is the depth of quality players. No other draft has had so many players stick around into their 30s.
In fact, 23 of the 58 players drafted hung around for a decade or longer, and three others played eight or nine years. The Class of ‘84 only had 17 last a decade.
What about today’s advanced metrics, which give us deeper analysis? One way to boil down a player’s career impact is called win shares.
Six players from ‘84 tallied more than 100 career win shares, including two with more than 200 (Jordan and Stockton).
Only three reached 100 in the ‘96 class, with Iverson just missing at 99. Kobe was the highest with 172.7, so no player reached 200.
And that exemplifies a point I was struggling to put into words.
The Class of ‘84 was a grander class. Even though ‘96 was packed with talent, there were more superstars in ‘84 who had a greater impact on the game.
The Class of ‘84 gave us the heart of the Dream Team. The ‘96 squad gave us much of the Olympic roster that barely beat Lithuania by two points and won two others by nine and 10 points respectively.
Maybe to put it in simpler terms: let’s say you were at a convention and you could attend only one of two autograph sessions. Would you go to get autographs from the Class of ‘84 or the Class of ‘96?
Unless you are under the age of 30, you’re definitely going to see the ‘84 class.
• Just in case you’re curious, while researching drafts, I came across this nugget. The best year for Hall of Famers in NFL history was 1964. Here are the 10 players who are now in the Hall.
Bob Brown, T — 2nd overall
Carl Eller, DE — 6th overall
Charley Taylor, HB/SE — 3rd overall
Paul Warfield, WR — 11th overall
Mel Renfro, DB — 17th overall
Paul Krause, S — 18th overall
Dave Wilcox, LB — 29th overall
Bob Hayes, WR — 88th overall
Leroy Kelly, RB — 110th overall
Roger Staubach, QB — 129th overall
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.