After watching the first two episodes of the Last Dance, we knew why Michael Jordan went down to #3 in the NBA draft.
Hakeem Olajuwon was the consensus #1 overall pick and even if the Bulls picked first, they would have taken Olajuwon. However, the Portland Trail Blazers owned the second pick and they picked Sam Bowie.
Before making that decision, former Indiana coach Bob Knight told Portland TrailBlazers GM Stu Inman to pick Jordan in the draft but Inman told his good friend that they needed a center and that they already had Clyde Drexler who played the same position as MJ. Knight jokingly told Inman to “Play Jordan at center.” to convince the Blazers GM to draft Jordan. But Inman didn’t listen and the rest is, as they say, history as the Bulls would pick Jordan 3rd overall.
Michael Jordan wasn’t the only great player who was drafted with the 3rd overall pick of the NBA draft. The third pick has been good for many teams and it has produced some of the greatest players in the history of the NBA.
Let’s take a look at the best #3 picks in the history of the NBA Draft:
1. Michael Jordan
There is no doubt that the best #3 pick in the history of the NBA is Michael Jordan. The guy is the GOAT of basketball so we don’t have to expound on this anymore. Just watch the highlights and watch the Last Dance.
2. Bob Cousy
The Houdini of the Hardwood was the first player to dazzle the NBA with his magical passes. He was ahead of his time in terms of ball-handling and passing. Bob Cousy was the third overall pick of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks but he refused to play for the team and was picked up by the Boston Celtics.
Cousy had a Hall of Fame career in Boston as he would help the Celtics win a total of six NBA titles while leading the league in assists for eight straight seasons. He was an All-Star in all 13 seasons he played and was a member of 12 All-NBA teams. Cousy was the 1957 NBA MVP.
He would finish his NBA career with 16,960 points, 4,786 rebounds, and 6,955 assists. Cousy was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2006 and he is among the 50 Greatest Players in the history of the NBA.
3. Pete Maravich
Peter Maravich was the greatest college basketball player ever. He is the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader with a total of 3,667 points scored and had a scoring average of 44.2 points per game in an era where the three-point shot nor the shot clock didn’t exist yet.
Pistol Pete was selected third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1970 NBA draft. After playing four seasons with the Hawks, he moved to the New Orleans Jazz where he blossomed as a full-fledged star. Maravich led the league in scoring during the 1977 season and he was a five-time All-Star and four-time member of the All-NBA team.
Maravich was hailed as the best creative offensive talent in the history of basketball. He was one of the youngest players inducted to the Hall of Fame. He died at the age of 40 during a pick-up game due to a previously undetected heart defect.
4. Dominique Wilkins
Dominique Wilkins was one of the best dunkers in the history of the NBA. He was known as the “Human Highlight Film” because of the countless highlights he produced inside the basketball court. He was known for his two dunk contest duels with Michael Jordan during the 80s.
Wilkins was the 3rd pick of the Utah Jazz in the 1982 NBA draft. But because he was not willing to play for Utah, he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in one of the most lopsided trades in the history of the NBA. Wilkins would thrive as the main player in Atlanta and he would lead the Hawks to eight playoff appearances in 11 seasons with the team.
He was a nine-time NBA all-star, seven-time All-NBA team member, and 1986 NBA scoring champion. Aside from his NBA achievements, Wilkins also won a Euroleague title and was the Euroleague Final Four MVP in 1996.
5. Kevin McHale
Many people consider Scottie Pippen as the best #2 player in the history of the NBA but Kevin McHale is right there with Pippen. McHale was Larry Bird’s chief aide during the Boston Celtics’ championship runs during the 1980s. He helped Boston win three NBA titles.
McHale was Boston’s 3rd overall pick in 1980 and he played his entire career with the Celtics. He started his career playing off the bench and he was the Sixth Man of the Year winner in 1984 and 1985. He was promoted to the starter position and became one of the key components of the Celtics’ 80s team.
McHale was a man with a million moves. He is considered one of the best low-post players of all-time. He was named to seven All-Star teams and six All-Defensive teams. McHale was among the NBA’s 50 greatest players and he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1999.
6. Grant Hill
Grant Hill was one of the most iconic players during the 90s. He played four college basketball seasons at Duke University and won two NCAA titles with the Blue Devils. Considered as one of the best college basketball players ever, he was the one who made the 75-foot pass to Christian Laettner in the greatest play in NCAA history.
The Detroit Pistons picked Hill with the 3rd pick in the 1994 NBA draft. He was chosen after Glen Robinson and Jason Kidd. He quickly became a hit in Motown with his acrobatic shots and fancy dunks. He and Kidd would be named co-Rookie of the Year in 1995.
Hill would go on to become a 7-time All-Star and a five-time member of the All-NBA team, including first-team honors in 1997. Hill’s rise to superstardom was halted by injuries but although he couldn’t stay healthy, he was able to play 19 seasons in the league. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2018.
7. Anfernee Hardaway
Anfernee Hardaway was supposed to be the NBA’s Next Big Thing until he got hurt in 1998. Penny teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando and in only his second NBA season, he helped the Magic to their best season ever and took them to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Houston Rockets.
Hardaway was the 3rd overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in 1993. He was traded to the Magic along with three first-round picks for Chris Webber. Orlando hit jackpot as he formed a tandem with Shaquille O’Neal that would make the Magic a playoff team.
Hardaway was an All-Star in his first four NBA seasons but he was never the same after he was injured. He made the All-NBA first team in his second and third seasons in the league and the 3rd team in his fourth season.
8. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol is one of the most successful European players in the NBA. He won two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010. He is a six-time NBA All-Star and a four-time All-NBA selection.
Gasol was the 3rd overall pick in 2001 by the Atlanta Hawks but his rights were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies where he became the franchise’s first superstar. Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008 where he would play alongside Kobe Bryant.
The Spaniard was the 2002 Rookie of the Year and was the J.Walter Kennedy Citizenship awardee in 2012. Pau was last signed by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019 but he was waived without playing a single game for the team.
9. James Harden
James Harden is the best scorer in the NBA today. He was the 2018 scoring leader and NBA MVP that season. He led the NBA in scoring during the 2019-20 season before the season was suspended.
The Beard was the third overall pick of the 2009 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He won Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2012 and helped OKC reach the 2012 NBA Finals where they lost to the Miami Heat.
Harden is an 8-time NBA all-star, a six-time All-NBA team member including five in the first team. He also played for the U.S. Men’s basketball team that won the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics.
10. Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic is one of the fastest rising stars in the NBA today. The 6-7 Slovenian ranked 6th in the league in scoring during the 2019-20 season at 28.7 points per game and was 4th in passing at 8.7 assists per game.
Doncic was the 3rd overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2018 NBA draft and he was traded of draft day for Trae Young plus future picks. Doncic was named Rookie of the Year last season and he quickly became one of the best young players in the league.
He was named NBA All-Star in his sophomore season in 2020. Before playing in the NBA, Doncic was Euroleague MVP, Final Four MVP, and champion in 2018. He was also Liga ACB MVP that year.