Jun 18

When the NBA Draft Came to Portland: 20 Years Later

By petro4three Posted in: 2012draft, Blazers, draft, memorialcoliseum

On June 28, 2012, NBA fans around the world will be focused on New York City for the NBA draft. This year's draft also marks the 20th anniversary of when the event came to Portland's Memorial Coliseum. It was the first time in history that the event was held outside of New York City.

The draft was held in Portland to coincide with the Olympic qualifying competition, The Tournament of the Americas, which began three days later on June 27, 1992, and marked the debut of the Dream Team. What the 1992 NBA draft will always be remembered for is the first overall selection Shaquille O'Neal from LSU.

Not only was this draft day in Portland an iconic one in NBA history, but it was also a memorable one for myself and three friends who were in attendance as teenagers. My memories of that day have faded somewhat in the last 20 years, but I do recall a few moments:

  • I remember seeing Shaq for the first time in person as he walked across the stage and towered over David Stern. The 8,000 Portlanders in attendance cheered his selection - even then he was a likable character. Little did Blazer fans know he would eventually sign a free-agent contract with the Lakers and become a thorn in the side of future Blazers' teams.
  • I remember booing the mention of Christian Laettner's name mercilessly, who was not in attendance because of his Dream Team commitments. I hated Duke basketball back then; I was more of a UNLV guy. And how could Laettner be named to the Dream Team over Shaq? Sure the team already had two centers in Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, but it's not like they were weak at the forward position with Karl Malone, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and Chris Mullin. Let's face it, even John Stockton could have played power forward on that team and the Americans still would have won gold medals.
  • I remember the drama of USC's Harold Miner dropping like a rock, all the way down to the Miami Heat at #12 overall. Speculation in some circles at the time was that his ceiling was Michael Jordan (hence, the nickname "Baby Jordan"), but apparently several teams correctly projected his talent, or lack thereof, before the draft, except for the Heat. In his four-year NBA career, Miner would only average 9 points per game. But he did win two Slam Dunk Contests.
  • I also remember Darren Morningstar from Stevenson, Washington, via the University of Pittsburgh, being drafted in the second round, 47th overall, by the Boston Celtics. It was memorable because Morningstar was in the Coliseum audience. I didn't realize who he was at the time, but I remember thinking, "Wow! Now people in the audience are being selected! Maybe I'm next!"

By finishing the regular season with 57 wins and 25 losses, the Blazers had the 26th pick in the draft, which was second-to-last in the first round back then. The Blazers selected Dave Johnson, a 6'7" guard-forward out of Syracuse. The only notable name taken after Johnson in the draft was P.J. Brown, who was taken at #29 overall.

Over two seasons, Johnson appeared in 59 games for the Blazers, averaging 3.5 points per game. He was waived in November 1993, signed by the Bulls a week later, and was then waived in March of that season and never again played in the NBA.

In the second round, the Blazers selected 6'10" Reggie Smith out of Texas Christian (#31 overall). Over two seasons Smith appeared in 66 games, averaging 1.5 point per game.

A few future Blazers were also drafted that day:

  • Jimmy Jackson from Ohio St. was the 4th overall selection of the draft. He signed with the Blazers as a free agent in 1999 and played in 49 games before he was packaged with Isaiah Rider in a trade to the Atlanta Hawks for Steve Smith.

Jimmy Jackson

  • Walt Williams from Maryland was the 7th overall selection. In 1998 the Toronto Raptors traded Williams to the Blazers in a package that included Damon Stoudamire, in exchange for a package that included Kenny Anderson. Over the next two seasons, Williams would play in 79 games for the Blazers before he was traded - along with half the Blazers' roster - to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Scottie Pippen.

Walt Williams

  • Tracy Murray from UCLA was the 18th overall selection. The Blazers traded Alaa Abdelnaby to the Milwaukee Bucks for Tracy Murray a few weeks after the draft. Murray was later traded to the Houston Rockets along with Clyde Drexler in exchange for a package that included Otis Thorpe. Murray would later sign as a free agent with the Blazers in 2003, but would only play in seven games.

Tracy Murray

20 years later, we can say that the significance of these players in Blazers' history is that they were packaged for players like Smith and Pippen who would play big roles on contending teams in the early 2000's, whose archenemy was the Los Angeles Lakers and the #1 overall pick in '92, Shaquille O'Neal.

Here is a photograph of most of the lottery picks from '92 draft (of course Laettner is not in it). I can't find a caption of this photo online, so I'll do my best to name them:

Front Row left to right: Robert Horry, LaPhonso Ellis, Alonzo Mourning, Shaq (with ball), Tom Gugliotta, Clarence Weatherspoon, Tracy Murray

Back Row left to right: Todd Day?, Walt Williams, Malik Sealy?, David Stern, Bryant Stith?, Harold Miner, Jimmy Jackson, Doug Christie

This video shows Shaq being drafted. People familiar with the Coliseum will notice the gray cement walls of the waiting room. At the end of this clip, Shaq is interviewed by Craig Saeger, who is wearing a normal suit!

Here is a list of the entire draft from

(Photo attribution: Shaq -, Johnson - Topps basketball card, Jackson - cnn/, Williams -, Murray -, group photo -


  1. We should have known back then that Shaq being draft in the Rose City would only mean terrible things to come down the road...

    by DHawes22 on 6/18/2012 9:45 AM
  2. RIP Malik Sealy, killed by a drunk driver (who offended twice after that)

    by drumken5 on 6/18/2012 10:57 AM
  3. I was at that draft too. I can't remember the reactions of everyone, but did Zo get boo'd when he was taken 2nd? I can't remember. I think I may still have a program or something from that day. I was cheering for Shaq. I was actually an Orlando Magic fan b/c of him and Penny. It's always nice looking back. 2 sleeper picks in that draft were late 1st rounder sprewell and PJ Brown in the 2nd. Historically not many 2nd rounders make it in the NBA, so it'll be interesting in 20 years to see what became of this year's 40 and 41st picks...

    by boomtown on 6/18/2012 11:12 AM
  4. I don't think Alonzo was booed. It seemed like basketball fans either loved those early 90's Duke teams to death or they absolutely despised them. One of my buddies I was with loved them, but I hated them. Today I think Coach K and Grant Hill are great. '92 was supposed to be a deep draft, but most of the lottery picks were journeymen. You never can know for sure.

    by petro4three on 6/18/2012 11:31 AM
  5. Love it: 'I didn't realize who he was at the time, but I remember thinking, "Wow! Now people in the audience are being selected! Maybe I'm next!"'

    by occassia on 6/18/2012 2:37 PM
  6. yeah, well, Laettner was one of them guys with attitude who always seemed to drain clutch shots for duke, and rivalries are so huge in college basketball that you're right, people either love or hate duke. There aren't many people on the fence saying, they're okay or i kinda like 'em.

    by boomtown on 6/19/2012 7:09 PM
  7. Oh Tracy Murray....I had such high hopes for him when we picked him up. I thought he was just going to be what today's Jason Richardson is, a three-point specialist with unlimited range.

    by ClydeFrog on 6/20/2012 8:31 AM
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