In the summer of 1994, the Seattle SuperSonics were in deep negotiations on a Scottie Pippen trade with the Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan, who was playing minor league baseball, was consulted by SuperSonics head coach George Karl since the two went to UNC and played several golf games together.
At the time of the Pippen trade rumors, Jordan had no intention of returning to the NBA, which is why he advised Karl to make the trade.
Michael Jordan told George Karl to trade for Scottie Pippen
According to Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune, Jordan told Karl that the SuperSonics would be the major beneficiary of a Pippen deal since the small forward was a superstar. The reported trade would have sent Pippen to Seattle and Shawn Kemp to Chicago.
“Sources close to Karl said the Seattle coach, who was a player at North Carolina and a frequent golfing partner of Jordan, spent much of the last several days consulting with friends and associates about the deal and that Jordan told him, ‘You’ll be getting the best of it.’ He said he thought the deal would assure Seattle a championship next season,” Smith reported in July 1994.
The SuperSonics were ready to send Kemp and Ricky Pierce to the Bulls for Pippen, who finished third in MVP voting in 1993-94. However, they backed out after Seattle fans swayed majority governor Barry Ackerly to reject the trade at the last minute.
Michael Jordan’s input didn’t work
SuperSonics supporters flooded the team with calls and letters because they didn’t want Pippen with all his baggage and attitude issues. The All-Star refused to go in on the final possession of Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks after Phil Jackson drew up the game-winning shot for Toni Kukoc. Pippen was also arrested in January 1994 for carrying a gun, although he was cleared of misdemeanor weapon charges a month later.
Despite Jordan telling Karl to trade for Pippen, the SuperSonics didn’t make a move. They went 57-25 in 1994-95 and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 1995 playoffs in four games. Meanwhile, the Bulls won 47 games, with the final 13 coming after Jordan came out of retirement in March. However, they lost in the second round to the Orlando Magic.
It’s almost as if the basketball gods punished the SuperSonics for not listening to Jordan. Chicago and Seattle met in the 1996 NBA Finals, and Karl’s group was no match for Jordan and Pippen.
MJ and Scottie Pippen beat George Karl in six games
The Bulls defeated the SuperSonics in six games in the 1996 Finals. Jordan won Finals MVP by averaging 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. As for Pippen, he put up 15.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game.
Kemp wound up not finishing his career with the SuperSonics. Seattle traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1997. The franchise clearly made a mistake by not getting Pippen and teaming him up with Gary Payton.
Jordan and Pippen guided the Bulls to six championships in the ’90s. They went undefeated in the Finals and are widely viewed as the best duo of all time. The course of NBA history could have changed if the 1994 trade sending Pippen to the SuperSonics for Kemp had not been squashed. However, Bulls fans are certainly glad Pippen stayed in Chicago, and Jordan came back for a second stint.