When you get that phone call during the NBA draft and realize you’re a number one pick, you might also get used to the fact that there isn’t much of a chance you’ll be winning the NBA title anytime soon, as only 8 of the last 35 number one draft picks went on to win a championship in their career, with LeBron James & the Miami Heat being the latest team to accomplish that feat.
James joined a list consisting of Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Glenn Robinson and Mark Aguirre as the only number one draft picks of the last 35 years to win the NBA title. Of these, only Duncan, Worthy, Magic, David Robinson and Olajuwon have won it with the team that drafted them.
As for the rest? Joe Barry Carroll made it past the first round once in four attempts. Ralph Sampson made the NBA Finals with the Houston Rockets, but the twin tower concept next to Olajuwon didn’t work, and Sampson’s knees didn’t last very long in the NBA. Patrick Ewing went with the New York Knicks to the NBA finals, but couldn’t seal the deal – not in a shortened season and not with Michael Jordan playing baseball.
Brad Daugherty reached the Eastern Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but never really made a true threat and imposing run at the NBA title. Danny Manning didn’t go to far despite playing next to Charles Barkley with the Phoenix Suns and the Malone-Stockton tandem in Utah. Pervis Ellison made the playoffs only once, as a bench player for the Boston Celtics. Derrick Coleman never got to far with any of his teams as well.
Larry Johnson reached the NBA finals with the Knicks in 1999, but that was as far as he went. Chris Webber got to the conference finals with the Sacramento Kings, but officials (if the conspiracy theories are true) took that chance away from him. Joe Smith played for quite a lot of teams during his NBA career of a disappointing number one pick, but never got close to a title. Allen Iverson had one memorable run with the Philadelphia 76ers, but couldn’t beat a strong Lakers team on his own.
Michael Olowakandi was barely a decent NBA player, let alone someone you might think of as a potential NBA champions. Kenyon Martin went to the finals but never actually displayed number one quality. Elton Brand used to be a good player but his time in the league isn’t over. Kwame Brown, Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bargnani, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis are those of the new millennium that are still without an NBA title.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that only 10 different teams have won title over the last 35 years (since the NBA/ABA merger), the lowest of all the team sports, and out of those teams, only four teams (Blazers, Mavericks, Washington, Seattle) won it once. You had to be a #1 pick that got drafted by the Lakers (Worthy and Magic), Celtics, Bulls, Pistons, Spurs (Robinson and Duncan), Rockets (Hakeem) or Heat or you weren’t winning too many titles the last 30 years.