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Last Night's Winner: The Memory Of Sam Bowie

Greg Oden's done, which means we're consigned to another year of summoning the spirit of sad old Sam Bowie from whatever well he's fallen down. Anyone tempted to compare the two similarly star-crossed, but otherwise totally different players should consider the following:

These are the men who in 1984 passed up Michael Jordan (who, revisionist history aside, everyone knew was going to be a star) to draft Sam Bowie (who'd sat out two seasons in college because of shinbone injuries and of whom Curry Kirkpatrick once wrote, insanely, "[T]his guy shoots more like Jim Bowie or Bowie Kuhn or David Bowie or Ziggy Stardust," which I don't believe was a compliment). Even healthy, Bowie's ceiling lay somewhere south of Billy Paultz. He was an indefensibly bad pick. This is not hindsight. This was conventional wisdom in 1984, which probably explains why the fellows here have an air about them of two men looking at a very large bear.


Two decades later, the Trailblazers passed up Kevin Durant (who did give some NBA observers pause, albeit for entirely silly reasons) to draft Greg Oden (whose injury history to that point was a torn ligament in his wrist sustained, I believe, during the Battle of the Somme but who otherwise looked like the ghost of Bill Russell). Oden's ceiling was lord knows where. In the pros, when he played, he played like an All-Star (and maybe even better, if that PER of 23.1 in 21 games last year is to be believed). I sympathize with the folks rending their garments all along the Willamette today, but it's worth remembering that Oden wasn't anywhere near the gamble Bowie was. He was a perfectly defensible No. 1 pick, which is why the men who drafted him in 2007 looked like this:

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