The thing I remember most about the 1996 NBA Draft, particularly when draft order was determined during the Draft Lottery, was how excited 76ers President Pat Croce got when it was announced the Sixers would get the number one pick.
His personality, coupled with the success of the franchise over the next five years, basically spawned an entire reality TV career for him for the next several years.
But the reason he was excited was because it meant his team was going to get the player everyone coveted the most above all other players available; Allen Iverson.
In two years at Georgetown, Iverson averaged 23.0 ppg and was the Big East’s back to back Defensive Player of the Year, pretty amazing for a six foot guard. His quickness and leaping ability were equally amazing and the most impressive that a lot of people have ever seen to this day.
Historically speaking though, the most impactful player from the 1996 draft ended up being Kobe Bryant, drafted 13th out of Lower Marion HS.
Though Kevin Garnett had made the successful transition from HS directly to the pros a year earlier (the first time in 20 years), there were a lot of people who doubted Bryant would ever be able to make the transition, mainly because he wasn’t a big man like Garnett or wasn’t strong enough. But as it stands now, he may be the second best NBA player ever.
This was a strange draft for the New York Knicks. They owned three first round picks (18, 19 and 21) which they used to select three front court players who never really panned out despite how promising they were in college; John Wallace from Syracuse, Walter McCarty from Kentucky and Dontae’ Jones from Mississippi State.
A few of the better 1996 NBA Draft picks:
– Allen Iverson at one
– Marcus Camby at two
– Shareef Abdur-Rahim at three
– Stephon Marbury at four
– Ray Allen at five
– Antoine Walker at six
– Kobe Bryant at 13
– Peja Stojakovic at 14
– Steve Nash at 15
– Zydrunus Ilgauskas at 20
– Derek Fisher at 24
A few solid 1996 NBA Draft picks that weren’t great:
– Kerry Kittles at eight
– Erick Dampier at 10
– Tony Delk at 16
– Jerome Williams at 26
A few 1996 NBA Draft picks that didn’t pan out:
– Lorenzen Wright at seven
– Samaki Walker at nine
– Vitaly Potapenko at 12
– Travis Knight at 29
Just like we saw with the 1984/1985 NBA Draft, a lot of these guys, though not great, stuck around and made an impact. The real only notable busts were Todd Fuller selected at 11th, Brian Evans at 27, Roy Rogers at 22 or Travis Knight at 29.
One trend that this draft set, or at least had a lot to do with establishing was players coming out of college after just one year or two years with five of the first seven picks (Iverson, Abdur-Rahim, Marbury, Walker, Wright) doing just that.
Was the 1996 NBA Draft the best draft in NBA history?