Portland Trail Blazers: Five non-Jordan, non-Durant stars the Blazers missed on drafting

Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
2 of 5
Portland Trail Blazers
Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (Photo by Jerry Wachter/Sports Imagery/Getty Images) /

No. 1: Larry Bird, University of Indiana State

Year: 1978

Original Pick: Mychal Thompson, University of Minnesota

Before this paragraph, I spent a good minute trying to imagine how a team of Larry Bird and Bill Walton could’ve done together. It feels like dominance overkill. With the passes the two of them would have made together, SportsCenter may have had no choice but to start doing “Top 10 plays” a couple decades earlier.

And then I remembered, the two of them did play together, but not in the red-and-black. Some teams just have all the luck, and by some, I mean one. And by one, I mean the Boston Celtics.


Ironically enough, Walton’s injuries are probably the only rationale behind the Portland Trail Blazers not selecting him in the 1978 NBA Draft. By this point, Bill Walton — not Chicago’s Bill Cartwright — was the official “medical Bill.”

Though he won the Most Valuable Player award in 1978, he sat out the entire 1978-79 season, blaming the Blazers’ medical staff for mismanagement of treatment. So basically, Kawhi Leonard four decades later. That left a gaping hole at the center position. He signed with the Clippers on a groundbreaking deal, to which World B. Free declared, “It feels like someone died in the family.” 

The gaping hole at center left the Blazers with options far and in-between. If the Blazers didn’t pick Thompson, the only other real options for Wayne Cooper or Dave Corzine.

Coming out of college, Thompson was a two-time consensus All-American, and averaged 23.4 points and 10.7 rebounds on 57.3 percent shooting, as he and Kevin McHale led the Golden Gophers to mild success, and drawing comparisons to Dave Cowens. In a center’s league, it’s at least defendable.

Thompson wouldn’t have the Hall of Fame career like that of his son Klay. Draft whiff notwithstanding, Thompson produced 12,810 points and 6,951 rebounds over a 935-game career. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But us Portland fans are still a little bit sick over missing out on Larry Legend.