Sam Bowie: What Could Have Been?

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If you haven’t seen the ESPN documentary on Sam Bowie entitled, “Going Big,” you should.  DVR it, do whatever you can to see it.  If you can catch it, you won’t be sorry.  For me, it’s hard to believe that the same network that employs Skip Bayless can produce flawlessly crafted, engaging and informative documentaries, but ESPN does. Starting with the acclaimed “30 for 30″ series, the high quality has continued all the way to the most recent offering featuring UK’s own Bowie.

Nationally, Sam Bowie has become a punchline of sorts. A factoid that people like to throw out around draft time of various sports: “Hey don’t draft another Sam Bowie.” We all know why. In 1984, Bowie had the unfortunate fortune of being selected one draft spot ahead of Michael Jeffrey Jordan.  And because of that selection, Sam Bowie has had to endure years of being labeled a bust by most people and a near joke by others. I think that both of those labels are simply unfair and “Going Big” documents that.  Look, Michael Jordan is arguably the best basketball player of our generation and perhaps of all time. That’s not debatable. Any player that wasn’t Hakeem Olajuwon and was drafted ahead of MJ would, perhaps, have to endure what Bowie has put up with for decades. But here’s the thing: Portland made the right decision.

In my opinion, a bust, in athletic terms, is someone that, simply cannot play at a high level or squanders their tremendous talent.  And every one of the major sports has had draft picks that fit that category.  But, sometimes, there are players that are selected early in the draft that, through no fault of their own, don’t meet the lofty expectations that accompany such a selection. That is what happened to Sam Bowie and that is why he isn’t a bust. Not by a long shot. Busts don’t have 10 year NBA careers averaging 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.


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