2. 1996: Allen Iverson — arguably the greatest little man in NBA history — was the big name on draft night in 1996, and rightfully so. The 6-foot-nothing guard from Georgetown University made a name for himself as a bonafide scorer and put the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers on his back all the way to the NBA Finals where they fell to a team co-led by another stud from AI’s draft class: Kobe Bryant. Although great expectations surrounded Bryant, who made the jump from high school to the NBA, he didn’t hear his name called until the very tail end of the lottery. However, that didn’t prevent him from establishing himself among the legends, as he is set to enter his 16th year in the league next season, having won five titles, six total MVP awards (finals, regular season and all-star) and numerous scoring records. If you don’t think that the success of Bryant and Iverson is enough to make their draft one of the best, take a look at another player from the class of ’96, who has recently emerged as one of the top playmakers in NBA history: Steve Nash. A two-time MVP and world-class point guard, proved to be like fine wine — only getting better with age. And at the very ripe age of 37, Nash posted an average of 11.4 assists per game this past season to lead the league in that category for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. While the superstar trio of Bryant, Nash and Iverson headlines the class, the star power doesn’t stop at them, as Ray Allen has been an annual fixture on the all-star team and Marcus Camby took home Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2006-07. Other ’96 draftees such as Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovic, Zydrunas Ilguaskas and Antoine Walker have had their share of all-star appearances as well. The No. 24 pick in the draft, Derek Fisher, evolved as the consumate role player, winning five titles as a integral part of the Los Angeles Lakers.
1. 1984: Not only was the draft class of 1984 highlighted by the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan, but it produced first ballot hall of famers, champions and superstars. The No. 1 pick of the draft, Hakeem Olajuwon went on to enjoy a very successful career, winning two championships with the Houston Rockets in the mid-1990s, and to this day, he is the only player in NBA history to take home the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP awards all in the same season. Joining Jordan and Olajuwon on the list of hall of famers who heard their name called in 1984 are Charles Barkley and John Stockton — two of the greatest players of all time at their respective positions. At a paltry 6-foot-5-inches tall, Barkley defied the odds and became not only one of the most complete players in basketball, but is regarded as one of the most intense and powerful rebounders of all-time. Stockton went on to enjoy a ridiculous 19-year career, in which he became the NBA’s all-time leader in assists, racking up 15,806 dimes in nearly 20 years with the Utah Jazz. Although neither Barkley nor Stockton ever managed to capture a championship, their accomplishments and contributions to the game undoubtedly cemented their names among the greatest of all time. Role players such as Kevin Willis, Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe and Alvin Robertson also came out of this draft and went on to enjoy long, successful careers.