Michael Jordan Wouldn’t Have Come Out of Retirement in 1995 if Bulls Traded Scottie Pippen to Seattle for Shawn Kemp
Michael Jordan delighted the basketball world by coming out of retirement in March 1995. He rejoined the Chicago Bulls following his baseball stint with the Birmingham Barons and only came back since Scottie Pippen was still on the team.
The Bulls almost traded Pippen to the Seattle SuperSonics for Shawn Kemp following the 1993-94 season. However, the deal got squashed at the last minute, allowing Jordan to return to Chicago near the end of the 1994-95 season.
Michael Jordan likely wouldn’t have come out of retirement if the Bulls traded Scottie Pippen
During All-Star Weekend in 2008, Jordan told J.A. Adande of ESPN that he probably would have remained retired in 1995 if the Bulls had traded Pippen to Seattle for Kemp.
“I could have played with Shawn,” Jordan explained.”But I wouldn’t have been as comfortable as I was with Scottie.”
After hearing about the Seattle rumor, Pippen was dead set on leaving the Bulls in February 1995 and nearly got his wish. The Los Angeles Clippers offered Chicago two first-round picks and the right to swap picks the following two seasons. However, Pippen changed his mind since Ron Harper had said playing for the Clippers was like being in jail.
Eight days after the Clippers failed to acquire Pippen, Jordan quit baseball because of a labor dispute, and the rest is history.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen three-peated again
Behind Jordan and Pippen, the Bulls won three straight titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Ironically, they beat the SuperSonics in the 1996 Finals in six games.
During his second run with the Bulls, Jordan averaged 29.4 points. He won two MVPs, three scoring titles, and three Finals MVPs. Meanwhile, Pippen put up 19.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists from 1995-96 and 1997-98.
It’s easy to forget Jordan never won a playoff series without Pippen. That’s probably why His Airness appreciated Pip so much since he knew how valuable the do-it-all swingman was to the team and his personal success.
MJ on Pip: My best teammate of all time
Jordan and Pippen won six championships together in the ’90s and went undefeated in the NBA Finals. In Episode 2 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, His Airness talked about his favorite partner in crime:
“I would never be able to find a tandem, another support system, another partner in the game of basketball like Scottie Pippen. He was a pleasure to play with. He helped me so much in the way that I approached the game, the way I played the game.
Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen. When everybody says, well, I won all these championships, but I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen and, you know, that’s why I consider him my best teammate of all time.”
Pippen may have refused to go into a playoff game in 1994 and thrown a chair on the court in 1995, but his basketball talents were impeccable. After all, there’s a reason Jordan never wanted to play for the Bulls without the small forward by his side.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference