That was the procedure at the time to determine the selection process, and a phone call from Bulls GM Rod Thorn left Sharman uneasy. The Bulls earned the first pick in the Eastern Conference after finishing in last place, while the Lakers earned the Western Conference's first pick after trading Gail Goodrich the previous season to the New Orleans Jazz.
Mindful of the Bulls' on-court struggles and lagging attendance, Thorn reached out to Sharman weeks before the draft seeking permission to call the coin flip, an initiative that he wanted to involve fan input. Sharman's first instinct, as he recalled this week in an email, involved an "emphatic No," but he soon relented because the two shared a good relationship with front-office dealings and he believed it would prove beneficial for the NBA.
"It was with great trepidation because I always called 'heads' since I felt that 'heads' was luckier than 'tails,' " Sharman wrote. "But it was a big gamble either way."
But it was a gamble that paid off.
To Sharman's dismay, the Bulls called "heads," but that uneasiness went away as soon as NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien announced "tails." The magnitude of that moment couldn't be overstated enough, considering the Lakers used that pick to select Magic Johnson.
"When the coin was tossed and it came up 'tails,' I nearly wept with RELIEF and joy!" Sharman wrote. "I was absolutely thrilled, as was the entire Lakers organization! It is hard to imagine what would have happened with our team if we had not been able to pick Magic. We won five championships with him, and he brought such incredible thrills and excitement..... not only to the Lakers, but the entire NBA. It makes me nervous right now to even allow myself to think about what it would have been like without him!"