Tails Never Fails

June 21st, 2018 | by Bulls.com

The Bulls 1979 Draft

Back in June of 1979 Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a charismatic 6’9” point guard from Michigan State was the consensus top player in the 1979 NBA Draft. Believe it or not, had a simple coin flip come up heads, there never would have been a thing as the “Showtime Lakers”, but rather chances are the “Stampeding Bulls” would have dominated the NBA landscape during the 1980s.

A look at Magic in a Bulls uniform

A couple of weeks prior to the ’79 Draft, the Chicago Bulls, who had slogged their way to the worst record (31-51) in the Western Conference during the 1978-79 season, and the Los Angeles Lakers, who by virtue of the trade a couple of years earlier owned the first pick of the then New Orleans Jazz (26-56), the worst team in the East, took part in a conference call with league Commissioner Larry O’Brien. Back then the first two picks of every Draft was determined by a coin toss between the two teams with the worst records.

As Commissioner O’Brien was about to flip the coin, Chicago General Manager Rod Thorn requested the Bulls be allowed to call heads or tails. A couple of weeks before that fateful day the Bulls had conducted a fan poll asking heads or tails. Heads won by a very wide margin, thus Thorn decided to honor the results, so when the Lakers agreed to let the Bulls to make the call, Thorn quickly exclaimed “Heads!”

Naturally, as luck would have it, the coin came up tails and Magic Johnson went on to make history in Los Angeles while the Bulls, left to pick second, ended up taking two-time First Team All-American power forward David Greenwood from of UCLA.

Greenwood would enjoy a solid, 12-year NBA career (the first six with Chicago), posting lifetime averages of 13.0 points and 10.1 rebounds over 823 games. Johnson, on the other hand ended up being a 12-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA, three-time NBA MVP, five-time NBA World Champion, three-time Finals MVP and three-time All-Star MVP over 13 glorious seasons before being enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

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