Michael Jordan retired from the NBA after winning his third championship in 1993, so Scottie Pippen was the “man” for the Chicago Bulls during the 1993-94 season. His Airness, who played baseball in 1994, kept tabs on the Bulls and was likely very impressed by what he saw from Pippen.
Although Chicago didn’t win the championship in 1993-94, Jordan believes there was immense value for Pippen to play without him.
Michael Jordan: Scottie Pippen had a better understanding about the game
Jordan told SLAM Magazine in 1997 that there was a benefit for Pippen to play without him in 1993-94 despite the Bulls falling short of their goal.
“I think it exposed him to a lot of the sheltering that I gave him,” Jordan said. “So I think he had a better understanding about the game. He became better, once I came back. And we became better as a tandem, once I came back.”
Although the Bulls lost to the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1994 playoffs sans Jordan, Pippen put up MVP numbers during the 1993-94 regular season and learned the toll it took to carry the load.
Scottie Pippen was sensational without Michael Jordan in 1993-94
Pippen finished third in MVP voting in 1993-94. He averaged 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists and led the Bulls to 55 wins. The small forward also won the 1993-94 All-Star Game MVP.
The Bulls swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 1994 playoffs. However, they lost to the Knicks in the second round in seven games, and it was difficult for Jordan to watch his former teammates lose to Patrick Ewing and Co.
“Very hard. Because I knew that [Scottie] wasn’t getting the fullness out of his players, and he was carrying a lot of the load,” Jordan said. “It reminded me so much of me when I was there, earlier in my career.”
Jordan returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season. He and Pippen defeated the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 1995 playoffs, but the Chicago superstars came up short versus the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals, losing the series in six games.
After getting humbled by the Magic, Jordan transformed his body from a baseball frame back to a basketball one in the summer of 1995, and the rest is history.
Bulls won three straight rings in 1996, 1997 and 1998
Behind Jordan and Pippen, the Bulls won three straight championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Black Jesus won two regular-season MVPs, three scoring titles, and three Finals MVPs during that stretch.
Jordan and Pippen never lost in the NBA Finals during the ’90s. They three-peated twice and are widely recognized as the greatest duo in NBA history. We may never see another pair of teammates have the same success they experienced together in Chicago.
Both Jordan and Pippen have their numbers retired by the Bulls. The latter asked the former to present him into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. It was undoubtedly a great moment for Bulls fans to witness since Jordan and Pippen are the two best players in Chicago franchise history.