OT had a long and eventful career in the NBA. While he was a star, he was also a sidekick to a superstar.
Thorpe was also involved in trades that shaped, or could have shaped, the NBA.
Thorpe was also a healthy player who was ready to play every game. He didn’t miss a single start, let alone game, from the 1987 NBA season to the 1992 season.
A 6-10, 250 pound power forward and center, Thorpe was the 9th pick in the 1984 draft after four seasons of college basketball at Providence.
He was selected by Kansas City and would move with the team when they went to Sacramento. He kept improving his numbers and by his fourth season with the Kings he was a 20-10 player.
In 1988, Thorpe was traded by the Kings to the Rockets, for forward Rodney McCray and forward/center Jim Petersen. It was a great move by Houston as they had found the right player to put at power forward next to center Hakeem Olajuwon.
With Houston, Thorpe’s numbers were often around 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. His shooting percentage was close to 56% most seasons. Olajuwon, Thorpe and a team of outside shooters won the 1994 NBA championship.
After winning their historic title, Houston didn’t think they could repeat and wanted to find something extra. Portland had a veteran star that was looking to win so a trade was made.
Thorpe was traded by the Rockets, with Marcelo Nicola and a conditional 1995 first round draft pick, to the Portland Trail Blazers for All-Star Clyde Drexler and shooter Tracy Murray. That resulted in another title for Houston but for Thorpe it started a trip around many NBA teams.
Portland didn’t keep Thorpe very long. In 1995 Thorpe went from the Trail Blazers to the Detroit Pistons, in a deal for Bill Curley and the draft rights to Randolph Childress. Thorpe was a solid player for the Pistons, playing 82 and 79 games in his two seasons there. He gave them some high-percentage scoring, rebounding and plenty of fouls.
Thorpe’s 300 fouls led the league in one of those years with Detroit.
A trade that went unnoticed at the time, when Detroit traded Thorpe to the Vancouver Grizzlies for a conditional first round pick it could have made the Pistons into a powerhouse of the future. Instead of winning one title, the Pistons may have been a perennial contender.
The draft pick was protected year after year, until it became the pick that Detroit used to grab Darko Milicic. So if Detroit had picked a different player, they could have ended up trading an old Otis Thorpe for Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade. Vancouver didn’t even keep Thorpe very long, only 47 games, and he was sent to Sacramento with Chris Robinson for Michael Smith and Bobby Hurley.
The Kings didn’t have a need for Thorpe on his second visit there and he was a throw-in for the Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber trade that was made with Washington. That trade made Sacramento a contender, as they surrounded Webber with Bibby, Divac, Stojakovic and other stars. Washington was another brief stay for Thorpe, he left there as a free agent.
Next stop was the Heat, as his numbers took a big hit and as he only played 15 minutes a game his scoring average dropped to 5.5.
There was still time in his career for Thorpe to be involved in another blockbuster trade. Miami sent him and Jamal Mashburn, Rodney Buford, Tim James and P.J. Brown to the Hornets for Eddie Jones, Anthony Mason, Ricky Davis and Dale Ellis.