NBA Draft: Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and the Greatest Draft Picks of All Time

Jeff LambertContributor IJune 25, 2011

NBA Draft: Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and the Greatest Draft Picks of All Time

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    After one of the most successful NBA Playoff runs in years, the 2011 NBA Draft came and went without much fanfare.

    The biggest news on NBA Draft night wasn't a blockbuster trade that sent Los Angeles Lakers stars Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom to Minnesota or Philadelphia, respectively.  It wasn't the Cleveland Cavaliers failing to grab a franchise player with two of the top four picks, or the New York Knicks whiffing on yet another draft pick. It wasn't even Minnesota Timberwolves GM and resident village idiot David Kahn nabbing the best player in the draft, or the Golden State Warriors getting a steal in Washington State stud Klay Thompson.

    No, the biggest news on draft day didn't even happen in Newark, NJ.

    It was this seemingly inconspicuous line that scrolled across the ESPN Draft Day ticker: "Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest applies to legally change his name to Metta World Peace, citing personal reasons for the decision."

    Wait, what?

    Ron Artest is officially changing his first name to Metta, a Pali word meaning "loving kindness". Somewhere a poor Detroit Pistons fan who took an errant punch to the head from the 2004 version of Ron Ron is shaking his head.

    Yes, Ron, er, Metta World Peace, managed to steal the headlines with more wacky antics from an otherwise listless draft. As I run through the names taken in this year's lottery (Irving, Williams, Kanter, Vesely, Jimmer, Knight, Walker, etc.), none sticks out as guaranteed franchise player, let alone an all-time great.

    Since the 1976 NBA-ABA merger, the NBA Draft has introduced us to some of the greatest players the game has seen. Let's take a look at the best picks at positions one through 15.

No 15: Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns, 1996

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    For some reason I think Steve still has that phone.

    Honorable Mention: Dell Curry ('86), Al Jefferson ('04)

No 14: Clyde Drexler, Portland Trailblazers, 1983

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    Sadly, no picture of Clyde and his Jheri curl still exist

    Honorable Mention: Tim Hardaway ('89), Peja Stojakovic ('96)

No 13: Kobe Bryant, Charlotte Hornets, 1996

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    Amazing! His tie matches his hat, sort of.

    Honorable Mention: Karl Malone ('85)

No 12: Kelly Tripucka, Detroit Pistons, 1981

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    Professional basketball player, or 80s porn star? You decide.

    Honorable Mention: No one. He is far and away the best. I'm serious. Look it up:

No 11: Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers, 1987

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    Love the hat, Reg. The NBA, it's FAAAAAANTASTIC!

    Honorable Mention: Robert Horry ('92), Kevin Willis (1862)

No 10: Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics, 1998

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    No comment.

    Honorable Mention: Joe Johnson, ('01), Horace Grant ('87)

No 9: Dirk Nowitzki, Milwaukee Bucks, 1998

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    Future NBA star, or German club Promoter? You decide.

    Honorable Mention: Tracy McGrady ('97), Amare Stoudemire ('02)

No 8: Robert Parish, Golden State Warriors, 1976

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    Pretty sure this was Robert's first encounter with a camera, in 1885.

    Honorable Mention: Olden Polynice, just kidding.

No 7: Bernard King, New York Knicks, 1977

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    Any questions?

    Honorable Mention: Chris Mullin ('85)

No 6: Larry Bird, Boston Celtics, 1978

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    Little known fact, this is the same photo Larry submitted for his Love Connection audition in '83.

    Honorable Mention: Adrian Dantly ('76)

No 5: Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat, 2003

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    Pistons GM Joe Dumars in 2003 War Room, "Darko or Wade? Come on, I need a pick now! Alright, fine. I'll take Darko."

    Honorable Mention: Charles Barkley ('84), Kevin Garnett ('95), Scottie Pippen ('87)

No 4: Dikembe Mutombo, Denver Nuggets, 1991

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    To be a fly on the wall for this conversation.

    Honorable Mention: Lamar Odom ('99), Antawn Jamison ('98), Rasheed Wallace ('95)

No 3: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1984

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    Michael can I have your autograph (giggling)?

    Honorable Mention: Stop it.

No 2: Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons, 1981

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    Back when he wasn't busy screwing up the New York Knicks.

    Honorable Mention: Gary Payton ('90), Jason Kidd ('94), Alonzo Mourning ('92)

No 1: Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers, 1979

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    The Magic Man

    Honorable Mention: Shaquille O'Neal ('92), Hakeem Olajuwan ('84), Tim Duncan ('97), LeBron James ('03)