There can be no debate that Kobe Bryant is a living basketball legend. In his NBA career he has been an All-Star 16 times, named to the All-NBA First Team 11 times and the All-Defensive First Team nine times. A five-time NBA champion thus far, he has been a regular season MVP once, a Finals MVP twice and an All-Star Game MVP four times.
With accomplishments like this, Bryant was surely the top pick in his draft class, right? Wrong. Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 Draft and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers less than three weeks later.
The high picks always receive the most attention, but Bryant's case demonstrates that brilliance can also be found in unexpected places. With the 2014 Draft scheduled for June 26, now's a great time to look back at low picks in previous drafts who went on to achieve greatness.
First round, 14th overall pick, Portland Trail Blazers, 1983
His rookie year was undistinguished - he averaged 7.7 points in slightly more than 17 minutes per game - but by Drexler's third season he was an All-Star. Drexler, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were the only players to average more than 21 points, six rebounds and six assists in the 1986-87 season. After more than a decade and two Finals appearances in Portland, Drexler was traded to the Houston Rockets midway through the 1994-95 season. It was in his hometown that Drexler finally won a championship, as the sixth-seeded Rockets went on an extraordinary playoff run and swept the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Finals. During the 1995-96 season, Drexler became the 24th player to score 20,000 points and was named one of the 50 best players in NBA history. A 10-time All-Star, Drexler retired in 1998 as one of only three players (Oscar Robertson and John Havlicek were the others) to record more than 20,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.
First round, 16th overall pick, Utah Jazz, 1984
Stockton was the backup Jazz point guard in his first two seasons, but from the very beginning he showed his potential for greatness. He set team rookie records for steals and assists. Stockton was a 10-time All-Star during his career and won an unprecedented nine straight assists titles. He also set NBA records for most assists in a season and highest assist average in a season. In 1996, Stockton was named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players ever. Upon retiring in 2003, Stockton was the NBA's all-time leader in assists (15,806) and steals (3,265). He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
First round, 13th overall pick, Utah Jazz, 1985
Malone was a member of the All-NBA Rookie Team and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. He was an All-Star 14 times and an All-NBA First Team selection 11 times. The MVP of the 1989 All-Star Game, Malone made history in 1993 when he and Stockton became the first teammates to share All-Star Game MVP honors. Like Stockton, Malone was named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players ever in 1996. The 1996-97 season saw Malone become the fifth player in NBA history to record more than 25,000 points and 10,000 rebounds and won the first of his two MVP awards. While Stockton remained the Jazz for his entire career, Malone signed as a free agent with the Lakers in 2003 and spent one season in Los Angeles before retiring. He ranked second on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 36,928 career points. Malone was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
First round, 18th overall pick, Detroit Pistons, 1985
A six-time All-Star, Dumars was named MVP of the 1989 Finals as the Pistons won their first of two straight championships. His team's first championship season was also the first of four seasons that Dumars was named to the All-Defensive First Team. Dumars received the NBA's first Sportsmanship Award in 1996. He played 1,018 regular season games for Detroit, a team record, and ended his 14-year career as the Pistons' all-time leader in three-pointers made (990) and second all-time in points (16,401). Dumars was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Second round, 27th overall pick, Detroit Pistons, 1986
No one dominated the boards like Rodman, who led the NBA in rebounds per game for seven straight seasons. He also led the league in offensive rebounds six times, defensive rebounds three times and total rebounds four times. A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rodman was selected to the All-Defensive First Team seven times. He won five championships during his career, two with the Pistons and three with the Chicago Bulls - and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
First round, 11th overall, Indiana Pacers, 1987
After averaging 10 points in his first season and 16 points in his second, Miller averaged a career-best 24.6 points per game in the 1989-90 season and became the first Pacer in 13 years to play in the All-Star Game. With new coach Larry Brown in charge for the 1993-94 season, Miller's scoring average dropped but he became the Pacers' all-time leading scorer and the fourth player in NBA history to make 800 three-pointers. Miller gave many outstanding postseason performance, perhaps the most memorable of which was scoring eight points in 8.9 seconds to give the Pacers a two-point win over the New York Knicks in the first game of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals. A Pacer his entire career, Miller retired in 2005 having scored 25,279 points - 12th-best all-time - and sank a record 2,560 three-pointers. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.