Ah the 2003 NBA draft. In my opinion one of the best drafts in NBA history. I don't really think that's a hot take when you're talking about a class with LeBron, Melo, Bosh, Wade to start and then guys like Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, David West, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Mo Williams, and Kyle Korver filling out the rest of the two rounds. That's a pretty damn good draft class. Four sure fire HOFers and 9 All Stars isn't too shabby.
And then there's Darko.
While this isn't quite Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan, the Pistons rolling with Darko over any of the Melo/Bosh/Wade picks will forever go down as one of the biggest what if's in NBA history. Specifically for Melo because he's the only one of those four without a ring, and as we know this happened in that 2003-04 season
The Pistons won that title with Darko playing in just 34 games, averaging 4.7 minutes a night and 1.4/1.3 averages. Now while there are no guarantees, I'm assuming the Pistons would have been pretty decent with a guy who looked like this as a rookie averaging 21/6.1/2.8
Darko was the huge unknown, Melo had just won a title at Syracuse and was the best player in the country that year in college basketball. You can imagine how the Pistons felt heading into that draft. Remember, the 2002-03 Pistons won 50 games and lost in the ECF (0-4) and only had this pick because the Grizzlies traded it to them for Otis Thorpe in 1997. This was a loaded team who had the opportunity to take a high lottery pick and they selected the only player to not be a Hall Of Famer in the top 4. That's why Rip's reaction in that video is so perfect. You'd think that locker room was beyond excited to potentially add a Melo/Bosh/Wade, and to end up with Darko is some tough shit. Granted they went to win the title anyway so it's whatever, but who knows how many more they would have had if they chose literally any of the other options. That reaction was 100% genuine.
I have no doubt that's the PG rated version though. Something tells me the guys probably weren't too calm cool and collected when that went down. Those Pistons teams could have been the next NBA dynasty, and instead they'll have to settle for one ring and one of the most intriguing NBA what ifs in history.