March 17, 1961 |
|Listed height||7 ft 1 in (2.16 m)|
|Listed weight||235 lb (107 kg)|
|High school||Lebanon (Lebanon, Pennsylvania)|
|NBA draft||1984 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall|
|Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers|
|Pro playing career||1984–1995|
|1984–1989||Portland Trail Blazers|
|1989–1993||New Jersey Nets|
|1993–1995||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||5,564 (10.9 ppg)|
|Rebounds||3,845 (7.5 rpg)|
|Blocks||909 (1.8 bpg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Samuel Paul "Sam" Bowie (born March 17, 1961) is a retired American basketball player. A national sensation in high school and outstanding collegian, Bowie's professional promise was undermined by repeated injury. In spite of the setbacks, the 7'1" and 235 lb center played ten seasons in the NBA.
Projected as a solid first rounder in the 1984 NBA Draft, Bowie was chosen by the Portland Trail Blazers as the second selection, ahead of future Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, due to Portland already having drafted Clyde Drexler just a year before.
As a player at Lebanon High School, Bowie was heavily recruited. He averaged over 28 points and 18 rebounds per game, and was a McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American. As a junior, he led his team to the state finals, where they lost by a point to Schenley High School of Pittsburgh. He was named Player of the Year over another heavily recruited center, Ralph Sampson. However, in a hyped game at the Capital Classic, called "Battle of the Giants" Bowie was outplayed by Sampson. Bowie also participated in the Dapper Dan and Derby Festival Classic.
As a freshman during the 1979–80 season at the University of Kentucky, Bowie averaged twelve points and eight rebounds per game.1 At the end of that season, Bowie was picked for the United States Olympic men's basketball team, which eventually boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Bowie's sophomore season saw him average 17.5 points and nine rebounds per game. At the end of the season, he was named a third-team NCAA Basketball All-American by the Associated Press. Also in 1981, he set, and now shares, the Kentucky record for most blocked shots in a game, with nine.2 However, his college career was interrupted with severe injuries to his shinbone that ultimately sidelined him for two seasons.3 He'd actually developed leg trouble as early as high school; film from that era shows him struggling to avoid undue strain on his legs and feet.4 He returned in time for the 1983–84 season, where he averaged 10.5 points and nine rebounds per game while being named to the second-team All-American squad. During his senior season, his heroics in a game against rival Louisville earned him a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated.5
The Houston Rockets selected Houston center Hakeem Olajuwon with the first pick in the 1984 NBA draft, having won a coin toss with the Portland Trail Blazers for the pick. The Indiana Pacers actually finished with one of the two worst records in the league that year along with the Rockets, but had traded the pick in 1981 to the Blazers for center Tom Owens. Olajuwon had been the Blazers' first choice, but with him now off the board and the team still desiring a center, Portland made Bowie the second choice in the draft.6 Drafting third, the Chicago Bulls chose North Carolina shooting guard Michael Jordan. Jordan is now widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time.7
At the time, the pick appeared to make some sense from the Blazers' perspective; they'd been looking for help in the post since franchise player Bill Walton suffered the first of several foot injuries that would eventually end his career. In fact, shortly before the draft, the NBA fined the Blazers $250,000 (equivalent of $560,000 in 2012) for improper contact with Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing. Additionally, Portland had drafted a shooting guard, Olajuwon's Houston teammate Clyde Drexler, a year earlier. With Drexler and Jim Paxson on the roster at the time, the Trail Blazers had no room for another shooting guard.8 Nonetheless, in 2005, ESPN, citing Bowie's injury-laden college career, named the Blazers' choice of Bowie as the worst draft pick in North American professional sports history.9 In 2005, Sports Illustrated listed Bowie as the biggest draft bust in NBA history, arguing that teams should draft for talent and not need.10
During his rookie season, Bowie played in 76 games and averaged 10 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team.11 However, he broke his left leg in 1985, and then broke his right leg in 1986—injuries unheard of in the NBA. Due to the broken right leg, he missed all but five games in the 1986–87 season. During the 1987–88 preseason, he fractured his right tibia while walking around in a pregame shootaround and was lost for the season.4 All told, due to his leg troubles he only played 63 games (out of a possible 328) during his last four seasons in Portland.
On June 24, 1989, Bowie, who had averaged 10.5 points per game with the Trail Blazers, was traded, along with a draft pick, to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Buck Williams. Bowie's four seasons in New Jersey were his healthiest and most successful; he averaged 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and never missed more than 20 games in a season. His best season was his first with the Nets where he averaged a double-double with 14.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Bowie also hit a career high in points per game in 1991–92 with 15.0, and played a career high 79 games in 1992-93 averaging 9.1 points per game and seven rebounds. After the 1992–93 season, Bowie was involved in a trade that resulted in Benoit Benjamin being sent to New Jersey in exchange for Bowie, who joined the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Bowie's injury problems resurfaced and his action in two seasons with Los Angeles was limited; he only played in 92 games and started 17. Bowie retired from professional basketball in 1995 to become involved in harness racing, although Jerry West, the team's general manager, wanted him to stick around for a few years after that.12
Over his career, Bowie averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.78 blocks per game.12 He hit 45.2% of his attempted field goals (2,127 made of 4,702 attempted), and 30.2% of his three-point shots (32 made of 106 attempted).13
After his retirement from basketball, Bowie returned to Lexington, Kentucky, where he has said most local residents remember him fondly for his success in college, rather than focusing on his unrealized potential in the NBA. As noted above, Bowie is involved in harness racing, both owning and training horses that run at The Red Mile in Lexington.
In 2012, Bowie was featured in an ESPN SEC Storied documentary, "Going Big."14 In it, he admitted hiding the extent of his leg troubles from the Blazers. For instance, he said that when a doctor tapped his left tibia with a mallet, he claimed not to feel anything when he was actually in noticeable pain.4
- "Sam Bowie Statistics". Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- St. John's Red Storm vs. Kentucky Wildcats - Recap - December 01, 2011 - ESPN
- Kirkpatrick, Curry (1983-12-05). "The Big Cat Came To Play". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- Dwyer, Kelly. Sam Bowie reveals that he lied to Portland about feeling leg pain before the infamous 1984 NBA draft. Yahoo! Sports, 2012-12-12.
- Millan, Manny (1983-12-05). "Sam Bam!". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- DuPree, David (November 26, 1984). "Trail Blazers don't regret bypassing Jordan". USA Today. p. 6C.
- "Michael Jordan". National Basketball Association. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
- Sakamoto, Bob (November 25, 1984). "Portland GM is happy with Bowie". Chicago Tribune. p. B2.
- "Page 2 : The 100 worst draft picks ever". ESPN.com.
- "SI.com - Photo Gallery - NBA Draft Busts". CNN.
- "NBA.com: All-Rookie Teams". NBA.com. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- Oden's recovery from surgery likely in range of 6-12 months, published September 13, 2007
- "Basketball-Reference.com". Retrieved 2009-07-29.
- Sam Bowie talks on ESPN film 'Going Big'
- Sam Bowie - The Fateful Pick @ bigbluehistory.net
- NBA stats @ basketball-reference.com
- Draft Busts @ SI.com