Bulls GM Rod Thorne believed Hakeem Olajuwon over Michael Jordan was a no-brainer in 1984

Achyuth Jayagopal
|Published September 05, 2022

Rod Thorne is widely celebrated in NBA lore as the man who drafted Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan was drafted #3 in the 1984 NBA draft and went on to be the face of the new NBA. MJ went on to be arguably the most recognizable name to arise from the world of basketball.

A cultural icon, Michael Jordan was also the premier superstar on the court, winning titles for fun. MVP, DPOY, ROTY, Finals MVP, name it – he’s won it. Oh, and with 6 championships in two three-peats.

Also read: “If Michael Jordan goes back to the Bulls, it will be 6,100,001 new jobs!”: Bill Clinton was ecstatic about the Bulls’ legend’s return

Jordan was also a winner at college level, winning the NCAA tournament with the University of North Carolina. However, Jordan was second fiddle to future Hall of Famer James Worthy.

Due to a combination of factors including the above, the status of Jordan in a stacked 1984 draft was unclear. While people still saw him as a player with good potential, he wasn’t quite a can’t miss talent yet.

While the Bulls selected him at No.3, it has been since revealed that he wasn’t their first choice. And it wasn’t even a close shove!

Who did the Bulls have on top of their wishlist in the 1984 draft?

Bulls GM Rod Thorn admitted that Hakeem Olajuwon would have been on top of the wishlist of “anybody who picked, including me”. Olajuwon was the reigning NCAA tournament player of the year and had flashed incredible two-way potential.

In an era where centers dominated the league, Olajuwon presented a franchise centerpiece at the position. The Nigerian phenom’s potential touched the roof and was a surer shot at NBA success with his physical gifts.

Ultimately, the Bulls did not have a record bad enough the previous season to earn them the #1 pick. After Houston got Olajuwon and Portland went Sam Bowie’s way, the Bulls picked Michael Jordan.

The ailing franchise had a savior. Just not the one their GM had in mind.

What would the state of the league be had MJ and Olajuwon switched teams? Would they have improved or left longing for in their careers?

The story of these arch rivals in NBA contention almost crossed paths shall remain a big what-if forever.

Also read: 7’0 Hakeem Olajuwon won everything the season after Michael Jordan retired, revealing slight favoritism from the NBA

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About the author

Achyuth Jayagopal

Achyuth Jayagopal

Achyuth Jayagopal is a creative writer with The Sportsrush. After previous freelance dabbles in the industry, Achyuth has authored over 300 pieces for TSR. Having followed the game of basketball for a considerable period, he pledges his allegiance to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Beyond speaking his mind on all things basketball, Achyuth is a Sports and Gaming Lawyer who is an ardent Chelsea fan and takes a shine to the culinary world and travelling too.

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