It’s kind of ironic to note that Dennis Rodman was a second-round pick of the 1986 NBA Draft. The fascinating part about this that in the most doomed draft in history, some unknown dude from some college called Southeastern Oklahoma State University would go on to have the best NBA career.
To look at the 1986 NBA Draft in the moment was to see the deepest and most talented collection of players assembled at one specific time and place. And yet between the death, personal destruction, addiction and the misplaced expectation, the entire group seems linked as if some sort of perverse Shakespearean tragedy.
How could so much go so wrong for so many people?
Just look at the list of names of young men who were headed for the NBA during June of 1986. At the top of the list were Brad Daugherty and Len Bias. Daugherty, of course, was supposed to be drafted by the 76ers, but, as the legend goes, former team owner Harold Katz had the No. 1 pick over to house to play some hoops on his indoor court and thought he was, “soft.” Because of that, Katz traded the rights to Daugherty, Moses Malone and Terry Catledge, the draft picks that turned out to be Georgetown/UNLV product Anthony Jones and Harvey Grant, only to get back Roy Hinson, Jeff Ruland and Cliff Robinson.
It very easily was the worst day of trading by the Sixers, ever, and that’s before we figure in the fact that Daugherty averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds a game for his entire career.
The story of Bias, of course, we all know all too well. Of course the one part of Bias’ death that is often overlooked in the long form pieces and documentaries is that without him, the Celtics were in disarray for a solid decade. Moreover, his death also sacrificed significant chunks of the careers of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, whose declines came much quicker than if they had Bias to lean on.
There were others, too. The No. 3 pick, Chris Washburn, lasted just 72 NBA games over three seasons and struggled with addiction for more than a decade. Big East superstars Pearl Washington and Walter Berry turned out to be casualties of the east-coast hype machine, while top 10 selections Kenny Walker, Roy Tarpley, Brad Sellers and Johnny Dawkins, had middling careers in the league, at best.
Even some of the players drafted behind Rodman were met with tragedy. Drazen Petrovic was killed in a car accident on the Autobahn nearly a decade before his posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame. Three years ago, Portland’s big man Kevin Duckworth died of congestive heart failure at age 44.
The 1986 Draft was so bizarre that one of its best standouts, Arvydas Sabonis, had to wait for Glasnost in order to make his way to America almost 10 years after he was taken as the last pick of the first round. By the time he got to the league he was already at the end of his prime and had many wondering what might have been.
But then that’s the overreaching theme of the entire mix from ’86.
So this was the backdrop from which Dennis Rodman entered the league. Moreover, given the demons he battled off the court it’s amazing that the one player from that draft to play a complete career and then gain induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is The Worm, Dennis Rodman.
According to reports as well as Rodman himself, the 6-foot-7 defensive and rebounding specialist got the votes needed amongst the 12 finalists to gain enshrinement. Word is Tex Winter also will be a Hall of Famer, along with Chris Mullin and former Sixers player and coach, Maurice Cheeks. Philadelphia University head coach and shooting guru, Herb Magee, was one of the 12 finalists. Considering Magee has more wins in NCAA basketball than any coach in history, he has a pretty strong shot to get in, too.
The official announcement is scheduled for noon on Monday.