The Biggest NBA Draft Steals of All Time
The NBA Draft is a pivotal moment for teams to secure young talent and shape the future of their franchises. While some players are highly touted and selected early in the draft, others slip through the cracks, only to become hidden gems and tremendous steals.
Before this year’s 2023 NBA Draft, later tonight, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest steals in Draft History, showcasing players who exceeded expectations and left an indelible mark on the league.
- Michael Jordan (1984, 3rd Overall): Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan was selected third overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA Draft. Despite a decorated collegiate career at the University of North Carolina, many believed Jordan’s slender frame would hinder his success at the professional level. However, Jordan proved his doubters wrong, winning six championships, five MVP awards, and becoming a global icon.
- Kobe Bryant (1996, 13th Overall): Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba, was chosen as the 13th pick by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft and was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. As a high school prospect, Bryant faced skepticism, but he quickly silenced critics with his unparalleled work ethic and relentless drive. He went on to win five championships, score over 33,000 points, and become one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (2013, 15th Overall): Hailing from Greece, Giannis Antetokounmpo entered the NBA as a relatively unknown player. Drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, he possessed raw talent and immense potential. Over the years, Antetokounmpo developed into a dominant force, winning back-to-back MVP awards. His unique blend of size, athleticism, and skill has revolutionized the game and propelled the Bucks to an NBA championship in 2021.
- Dirk Nowitzki (1998, 9th Overall): Coming from Germany, Nowitzki faced skepticism about his ability to transition to the NBA. However, he defied expectations and became one of the greatest power forwards of all time. Nowitzki led the Mavericks to their first NBA championship in 2011, earning Finals MVP honors and finishing his illustrious career with over 31,000 points.
- Manu Ginobili (1999, 57th Overall): Manu Ginobili, a talented shooting guard from Argentina, was a diamond in the rough. Drafted with the 57th pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, he showcased his flair, versatility, and clutch performances throughout his career. Ginobili played a crucial role in the Spurs’ four championships and became one of the league’s most beloved and respected players.
- Nikola Jokić (2014, 41st Overall): Nikola Jokić, the Serbian center, entered the NBA as the 41st pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. With his unconventional style of play, Jokić quickly established himself as one of the most skilled big men in the league. Known for his exceptional passing, basketball IQ, and versatility, he became the first center to win the NBA MVP award since Shaquille O’Neal. This year Jokic helped the Nuggets win the NBA Championship for the first time in franchise history and was named the Finals MVP.
- John Stockton (1984, 16th Overall) and Karl Malone (1985, 13th Overall): It is impossible to talk about draft steals without mentioning the legendary duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone, both drafted in the 1980s by the Utah Jazz. Stockton, selected 16th overall in the 1984 NBA Draft, became one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. He holds the records for the most career assists and steals, and his partnership with Malone led the Jazz to two NBA Finals appearances.