One of the biggest draft busts of all time is Michael Olowokandi. Born in Nigeria in 1975, Olowokandi moved to London with his family at the age of four. A standout athlete growing up, Michael reached 6 foot 8 inches by the time he turned sixteen. Olowokandi first touched a basketball at age 17 and began playing at age 18. He had a tough time in his first few years at the University of Pacific but in his senior year, he was dominant. Olowokandi, averaging a spectacular 22.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game earned the Big West Player of the Year award. Following this season he declared for the 1998 NBA Draft.
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NBA Draft Busts: Michael Olowokandi
In the 1998 NBA Draft, Michael Olowokandi was selected first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. Prior to the draft, Olowokandi was seen to be a definite top-two pick. The Clippers ultimately decided to take him because of his wingspan and unlimited upside. Due to the lockout-shortened season in 1998, it wasn’t until 1999 that Olowokandi finally made his first Clippers appearance.
In his first season in the NBA, he played decently averaging 8.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. This performance granted him Second-Team-All-Rookie honors. The future still seemed bright for the developing young player. However, injuries began to kick in and Olowokandi underwent his first of multiple knee surgeries on March 11, 1999. Olowokandi continued to play solidly over the next few seasons but never came close to living up to the stature of a number one overall pick. In his five seasons with the Clippers, he only averaged 9.9 points, 8.0 rebounds per game.
During the 2003 NBA offseason, Olowokandi decided to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The deal was for three years worth $16.2 million dollars. Before the 2003 season began, he once again felt pain in his knee and received his second surgery. Once returning, Michael only appeared sparingly for the Timberwolves in November and December. In December of that same season, he underwent his third knee surgery. After playing just 137 games for Minnesota, Olowokandi was traded to the Boston Celtics. Injuries continued to pile up and Michael Olowokandi only played forty more games in the NBA before eventually retiring in 2007.
Solid Draft Class
The 1998 NBA Draft class was very solid. Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Rashard Lewis were a part of that class, along with the Rookie of the Year Vince Carter. The draft also produced other solid players such as Corey Brewer, Al Harrington, Jason Williams, Bonzi Wells, Mike James, and Larry Hughes. Every one of these players followed Michael Olowokandi.
Derailed by Injuries
Similar to other draft busts such as Greg Oden and Jonny Flynn, Olowokandi’s basketball career was derailed by injuries. If he hadn’t injured his knee in 1999 after his rookie season the career outlook for Michael may have looked a lot brighter. He definitely still may have turned out to be a bust but a couple of flashes he showed in his rookie season may have said otherwise.
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