Pretty much every boy who grows up playing basketball dreams of one day making it to the NBA and being drafted by a storied franchise like the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls or nowadays the Golden State Warriors. Whether that kid thinks of himself as a lightning quick shooting guard in the mold of Steph Curry, an all-world, do-everything superstar like King LeBron or even an old school big man like Shaq, he can’t wait to hear his name called at the annual NBA draft and run up on that stage to put on the hat with his new team’s colors.
Now of course every kid who balls, whether he does it on the asphalt of the big city or on a hardwood court in some tony suburb, dreams most of all of being the number one draft pick. Why wouldn’t he? After all, if you’re going to dream, dream big. But it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and yes, even luck to make it in the biggest and best pro basketball league in the world. Many young men who were all-world college or club players have found their path to NBA superstardom blocked by injuries, bad teams and their own inability to make it. Some have even found themselves completely surpassed by other players who were drafted far below them. So, the question is- how well do you really know the last 25 number one NBA draft picks. Do you remember not just the superstars but also the busts? Let’s find out.
This one should be pretty easy for any NBA fan since the 2017 draft was just held less than a month ago. This player was drafted by the woefully bad Philadelphia 76ers as the top pick overall and they certainly hope he will help them become competitive again. He played his college ball at the University of Washington, where he was a third team All-American as a freshman. He was the first freshman in over twenty years to average over 20 points, 5 rebounds and five assists per game. He only played college ball for one year before entering the draft. Before that he was a McDonald's High School All-American.
This hulking power forward was actually born in Melbourne, Australia and plays for the Australian National Team. He moved to the states as a teenager and played his college ball at LSU, where he was a first team All-American. He was, of course, also a McDonald's High School All-American. He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers (I told you they were bad) and looked solid in the NBA summer league before fracturing his foot and missing the entire 2016-17 season. He reportedly has grown two inches during his rehab and is now a legitimate seven-footer!
The Minnesota T-Wolves took this big center out of the University of Kentucky and he has quickly blossomed into a star. The problem is, he's a star for Minnesota who are pretty bad and have no one to care about them... He was Rookie of the Year in 2014-15 and averaged 25 points a game last year. He's averaging over 20 for his short career and that number seems to be rising. Maybe someday Minnesota will get good and somebody will actually see him play.
The Cleveland Cavaliers originally drafted this guy with the number one pick but sent him to the frozen tundra of Minnesota in the Kevin Love deal. He might just make the T-Wolves a going concern someday, if he stays together with the guy above who the Wolves drafted the following year. He's out of the University of Kansas and was rookie of the year two years ago. He averaged almost 24 points a game last season as a shooting guard.
It's early yet- he's only been in the league for four seasons- but this guy is going to need to step it up soon if he's ever going to justify his number one draft pick status. He currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets after being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers (I bet he wished he were still there!) and averages less than five points a game. He has no hardware, no All-Star game appearances, no nothing. He didn't even make the All-Rookie team his first year.
A quick big-man from the University of Kentucky, this number one pick has been lighting up arenas for the New Orleans Pelicans (nee Hornets), the team that originally drafted him, for the past five years. He's got four All-Star appearances and an All-Star game MVP. Because he has led the league in blocks twice you would think he's a monster defensive presence, and he is, but he also averages 22 points per game and almost 11 rebounds. I guess the term "He got game" applies to him.
I wonder what it's like for a great player to live under the shadow of an even greater player. Scottie Pippen did it all those years in Chicago while Michael Jordan owned that town and this player is currently experiencing a similar feeling for his team. He was drafted out of Duke University where he THE man and it seemed like he would be again for his professional team until someone came home. He has four All-Star appearances in six years, a title, and an All-Star game MVP so he's doing OK for himself.
When you are picked number one by the Washington Wizards you're probably hoping they have more moves in place because, well, they haven't been very good for a very long time. That hasn't stopped this player though, who in his seven seasons with the team has four All-Star appearances and scores over 20 points a game. He's also an All-Defensive team member. The University of Kentucky product even raises his scoring average when the playoffs roll around- maybe someday Washington will make it the promised land.
There's still time for this guy to get even better at his game, not that it's all that bad to begin with. He starred as a hometown boy at the University of Oklahoma and was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers, for whom he still plays. He's a big bruiser around the basket with a career average of 22 points and almost 10 rebounds. He also has five All-Star appearances to his credit in seven years so he may just be getting started. Oh yeah, he once jumped over a truck in the Slam Dunk competition.
This player was supposed to be All-world, the next great thing in the NBA. It didn't quite happen but despite all of his knee injuries he is still playing and some people still think he might have a few years of greatness left in him. He was originally drafted by the Chicago Bulls out of Memphis, where he played in one of the all-time great national championship games. He is a former league MVP and three-time All-star so he certainly hasn't been a bust, just not quite what people thought he would be. He's averaging just under 20 points and just over six assists for his career.
Sometimes a number one draft pick is derailed by poor play. Sometimes he makes bad "life" decisions. And sometimes he just can't stay healthy. This guy was an absolute Hulk for Ohio State in college but his physical ailments sapped away his pro career. He only ever played in three seasons. His last one was in 2013-14 after attempting a comeback three years after he had originally retired. I guess if your feet hurt it might "impact" your ability to be a baller. He was originally drafted by the Portland Trailblazers.
I wonder if you even remember this guy, who last played for the Brooklyn Nets two years ago. He was originally drafted number one by the Toronto Raptors and never played college ball. He had very decent career averages of 14 points and 5 rebounds a game but never made it to a single All-Star game nor ever won a title. He DID make the All-Rookie team in 2006-7 so I guess he's got that going for himself. He spent the bulk of his career laboring for those same Raptors.
In the early and mid-2000s Rick Majerus was basically running a basketball factory out at the University of Utah. He had players entering the NBA draft left and right. This guy was no exception, getting picked by the Milwaukee Bucks on the strength of his dominating big man game in college. He has had a respectable but very average NBA career, averaging 10 points and nine rebounds over 12 seasons while winning one championship with Golden State two years ago. He currently plays for the Cavs.
There were a lot of cool dudes from the University of Connecticut in this draft and a lot of high schoolers. The one who eventually ended up being chosen first was drafted by the Orlando Magic, who like his size and potential. Thirteen years later he is currently playing with the Atlanta Hawks and has appeared in eight All-Star games. He has also been the NBA Defensive Player of the Year three times, which is quite an impressive accomplishment. He pulls in almost 13 rebounds a game.
Because high schoolers had been eligible for the draft for awhile (due to Kevin Garnett's coming out early eight years before), it wasn't really a shock when this guy was chosen with the number one pick. It seems to have worked out for him, as he currently has six NBA Finals appearance, three titles, 13 All-Star appearances and an mind-boggling four league MVPs. Oh yeah, he's also almost averaging a Triple Double for his 14-year career. He was drafted by his hometown team, abandoned them, and returned a hero.
There was some huge talent in the 2002 NBA draft, both homegrown and from abroad and it was anybody's guess who would actually be the top pick. On draft night the Houston Rockets, proving the old basketball adage that "you can't teach height," drafted this 7'6" center, even though he was rail-thin and had little top-level experience. It was the right choice. Even though he only played eight seasons in the league, all with the Rockets, he made the All-Star team all eight of those years, averaged 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game and was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.
2001 was one of those years when the NBA draft was dominated by teenagers. The NBA had allowed players to go into the draft directly out of high school a few years before and a bunch of them took advantage of that new rule in this draft. Our number one pick, who was drafted by the Washington Wizards, was one such player. He played for twelve seasons on seven different team and didn't even average seven point a game so I think it's safe to say he didn't really pan out. He DID really P.O. Wizards owner and executive Michael Jordan, though, who didn't like his practice habits.
The 2000 NBA draft had a lot of guys in it who were somewhat questionable and this guy sort of fell into the top slot. He played his college ball at the University of Cincinnati under the hard-nosed and irascible Bob Huggins and took that coach's fearsome style of attacking defense to the NBA. He was drafted by and played for the New Jersey Nets for a few years and was then shipped to Denver, where he became a longtime starter. Over the course of his 15 years in the league he averaged about 13 points a game- certainly not great but a very decent NBA career nonetheless.
This massive power forward was a beast around the basket, albeit a beast with a very soft shooting touch. He was a standout at Duke University under the great Coach K (nope, I'm not gonna even try to spell that last name!) and was poised to take the NBA by storm when he was drafted number one by the Chicago Bulls. Many people thought he would be the heir apparent to His Airness. However, he ended up spending his most productive years with the Clippers, where he played for eight years and was twice an All-Star as well as the NBA blocks leader in 2002-3. This for a guy who was "only" 6'8"!
1998 was a highly touted class with tons of great players in the draft- players who would have a profound impact on the league. This particular player was the most highly touted of them all and was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers to resurrect their franchise (sound familiar?). He played six seasons for them, averaging almost 10 points per game and made the All-Rookie team as a Clipper. He also had late career stops in Minnesota and for the Boston Celtics. He averaged a very respectable eight rebounds a game over his career and even had almost two blocks per game, quite an achievement.
All this player ever did was come to work, play hard and silently suck the soul out of the opposition. He was never flashy or showy but was more like a machine on the court, executing every play perfectly, seemingly every time. He was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs and played his entire career with them, picking up five NBA titles along the way. He also managed to be league MVP twice and an All-Star 15 times before retiring last year.
The 1996 class was full of legendary talent and legendary characters. "The Answer" was one of those legends. He was a tiny guy in a big man's game but he was fearless and made it work. He's best known for his time spent with the Philadelphia 76ers (back when they were good) and appeared in 11 All-Star games, twice taking home the game MVP. He was also league MVP in 2000-1 and was a four-time scoring champion. Needless to say, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.
For a number one pick this guy sure was well traveled! He played his college ball at the University of Maryland under legendary coach Gary Williams and was drafted by the Golden State Warriors to be the franchise saviour. Unfortunately he couldn't do it for Golden State and ended up taking his game to 15 teams in 16 seasons, including stints with the T-Wolves and Cavs twice. Talk about a journeyman career. He managed to average over double digits in the course of over 1,000 games but never made an All-Star team.
The "Big Dog," as this player was known, was a beast of a power forward who took no prisoners as an All-Big Ten player for Purdue University in the early nineties. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, whose fandom embraced his "meat and potatoes" approach to the game. That approach garnered him a career average of over 20 points in the course of 11 seasons. He managed to win a title as a bit player for the San Antonio Spurs dynasty in 2004-5.
He is still perhaps most famous for his boneheaded attempt to call a timeout that his team didn't have in the waning moments of the 1993 National Championship game but that didn't stop the expansion franchise Orlando Magic from taking him with the top pick. He went on to have a very respectable pro career, averaging over 20 points and almost 10 rebounds in a career that lasted 15 years. He never played for Orlando, instead bookending his career with appearance for Golden state as a rookie and an old-timer. He was a five time All-Star, primarily for Washington's Wizards (nee Bullets).