The Chicago Bulls traded Charles Oakley to the New York Knicks for Bill Cartwright in the summer of 1988, a move Michael Jordan didn’t like since he was close friends with the Oak Tree and Mr. Bill was an aging player with a documented injury history.
However, the trade worked out well for the Bulls, so much so that Jordan admitted he was wrong about the deal.
Michael Jordan: Charles Oakley-Bill Cartwright trade made a difference
Jordan told SLAM Magazine in 1997 that he was wrong about the Oakley-Cartwright trade. Even though it was difficult for him to see his “brother” get traded to the Knicks, His Airness soon found out that Cartwright was the perfect big man for the Bulls.
“I was wrong with the Oakley-Bill Cartwright trade,” Jordan said. “I loved Charles Oakley. He was like a brother to me, and I felt we were giving away too many years by trading a young rebounder for an old guy who hadn’t played a full season. But in terms of what we were trying to get, he was the best. It was the best trade at the time. I still love Charles Oakley, and I loved having him on our team, but in terms of what Bill Cartwright brought to the team, he made a difference.”
Oakley was Jordan’s protector on the Bulls. Whenever MJ got clobbered on his drives toward the basket, the center would fight the player who fouled his buddy hard. Meanwhile, Cartwright was much older than Oakley and missed the entire 1984-85 season due to a foot injury.
While Jordan had every right to be concerned that the Bulls had made a mistake by trading a young stud in Oakley for an old, past-his-prime Cartwright, he was pleasantly surprised by how valuable the latter was to the Bulls.
Michael Jordan won three titles with Bill Cartwright
Jordan and Cartwright were teammates for five seasons on the Bulls. During that span, they won three consecutive championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993.
Cartwright averaged 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 47.2% from the field from 1988-89 to 1992-93. He gave the Bulls more size and rim protection in the frontcourt since he was a seven-footer. The California native put up 6.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in the 17 NBA Finals contests he appeared in.
The Bulls had a stellar record of 243-107 when Jordan and Cartwright were in the lineup. The latter played his role to a T and changed Jordan’s perception of him, which isn’t an easy task to achieve.
Cartwright’s NBA career ended after the 1994-95 season. He joined the Bulls as an assistant coach in 1996 and watched Jordan lead Chicago to championships in 1997 and 1998. After the dynasty ended in 1998 following Jordan’s second retirement, Cartwright remained with the Bulls and got an opportunity of a lifetime in 2001.
Dollar Bill coached the Bulls
Cartwright was promoted to head coach of the Bulls in 2001-02. He compiled a record of 51-100 before being fired 14 games into the 2003-04 season. The three-time champion joined the New Jersey Nets as an assistant coach for four years and finished his coaching career as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns in 2012.
Unlike Jordan, Cartwright isn’t in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. However, he got to play on one of the most popular basketball teams in NBA history and share the locker room and court with Black Jesus, arguably the greatest player of all time.