Skip to main content

Former Chicago Bulls general manager explains why he was a bit hesitant to draft Michael Jordan

Rod Thorn named the player they would've picked if they passed on Michael Jordan.

With the benefit of hindsight, we could assume that the Chicago Bulls front office didn't rattle their brains before picking Michael Jordan as their third selection in the 1984 NBA Draft. That athleticism, explosive first step, and ability to hang in the air should be enough to consider the front office that, yes, Jordan is the next big thing. But the reality is, the Bulls were initially at odds in picking the North Carolina standout. They weren't head over heels over Jordan's basketball talents.

"He was kind of thin"

According to the then-Bulls general manager Rod Thorn, the team wasn't too keen on picking Jordan right then and there. Jordan's seemingly lanky stature was seen as a liability. Also, Thorn and his crew weren't convinced of Jordan's shooting ability.

"Back then, the knock on Michael was that he couldn't shoot the ball," Thorn recalled. "For a long time, that first season, he just drove the ball to the basket and he didn't need a shot. But Michael was so smart, he learned from taking some mighty licks. So he said, 'I gotta get a jump shot,' and he got one. But when we looked at him for the draft, he was 195 pounds and 6-6, so he was kind of thin. So the biggest thing about him was, can he make a shot? We wondered what kind of shooter he'd be," Thorn said, per the NY Daily News.

Thorn also shared their headspace coming into the draft. Hakeem Olajuwon was the consensus no. 1 pick then. So he knew there was zero chance they would snag the Nigerian stalwart. If the Portland Trail Blazers had taken Jordan, then Thorn shared they would've taken Sam Perkins over Charles Barkley.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Different era

From the looks of it, the Bulls were inches away from being the laughing stock of the 1984 NBA Draft alongside the Portland Trail Blazers. Imagine passing up on Jordan and Barkley — two of the best players in basketball history.

But the benefit of the doubt should still be given to Thorn and the Bulls. Let's note that they were from a different era. Back then, snagging the best big man was the right move. Guards weren't much of a priority. As a matter of fact, Jordan was the only guard at the top of the 1984 Draft Class.

Apart from this, NBA teams didn't have the benefit of looking closely at the prospects. All Thorn had was a connection to the legendary Dean Smith — Jordan's head coach in North Carolina. Thorn's concerns over Jordan's lack of a reliable stroke slowly subsided after Smith's assurance, as well as his regular trips to watch Jordan's college tapes.

"Back then, you didn't work guys out," he said. "We never worked Michael out. But I was very good friends with Dean, and every year, I'd go down to North Carolina for two or three days and he would let me watch tapes of all the ACC players. That's how I scouted the entire league. Dean thought Michael would be a really good pro - a better pro player than a college player," Thorn said.

Thorn's story makes one think of the secret formula to getting the most out of your draft campaign. Sticking out your ear to the zeitgeist certainly plays an element. Doing your research and heeding the expert's advice also helps. And just like most things in life, luck also plays a key role. 

Portland TrailBlazers' legends: Clyde Drexler and Damian Billard

“From that moment, I knew it was possible”- Damian Lillard on passing Clyde Drexler’s Trail Blazers scoring record

Damian Lillard is set to break Clyde Drexler's Portland Trail Blazer scoring record next season.

serge-ibaka-derek-fisher-min

Serge Ibaka shares an important lesson he learned from Derek Fisher

Ibaka is the type of player who never settles with what is in front of him. He constantly absorbs everything he feels will be beneficial for him. In the process, he became humbler and wiser

New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing

"I got aroused" — When Patrick Ewing testified in a strip club trial

Patrick Ewing admitted visiting the Atlanta strip club 10 times. His first time was in 1996 when he was in town for the Olympic Games

New York Knicks forward Latrell Sprewell

"One of the misconceptions about me is that I have this attitude problem" - Latrell Sprewell opens up about his off-court personality

Latrell Sprewell stressed that his fearless attitude on the court was far from who he was off of it.

LeBron-James-Jerry-West

Jerry West on how the Memphis Grizzlies almost picked LeBron James

Before Jerry West became general manager, the Memphis Grizzlies made a trade that hurt their chances in the 2003 NBA Draft.

Brooklyn Nets forward Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is not the solution to the Boston Celtics' woes

Blake Griffin is already past his prime and there's little he could do to impact the Boston Celtics' title aspirations next season.

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden

James Harden explains why he considers himself  "one of the most unselfish players ever"

James Harden talks about the upcoming NBA season for the Philadelphia 76ers, while also opening up about his mindset and the time he spent playing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets

New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul

"I'm a point guard and I'm that good" - Chris Paul's simple reply to a Hornets teammate who was baffled by his skills

Former New Orleans Hornets forward Jason Smith got an epic response from Chris Paul when he asked him how could he read the game while on the floor.