Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen combined to make 19 All-Defensive teams during their legendary careers. The Chicago Bulls icons are undoubtedly two of the top defenders in NBA history and helped the Bulls suffocate teams during the ’90s.
Ron Harper gave Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen a break on defense
In a wide-ranging interview with Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein, Gill spoke about how valuable Harper was for Jordan and Pippen on the defensive side of the ball. The five-time champion was 6-foot-6 and could guard perimeter scorers at a high level.
“By the time he got to the Bulls, he had lost a lot of the quickness that he had with the LA Clippers and the Cavaliers, because of the knee injuries, but he still had to have veteran savvy on how to play help defense, how to play lanes and, maybe once in a while, come from behind and block the shot,” Gill said. “Those are the things that he provided, which were key for the Bulls because Michael and Scottie couldn’t do it always. Harp could take a guy for four or five minutes, give Scottie and Michael a little break. I think that’s where he was most important because he filled in as a utility guy. Let me give Scottie a break, let me give Michael a break, go guard Kevin Johnson. Things like that. It’s always a luxury for a championship team to have that.”
Harper never made an All-Defensive team during his career like Jordan and Pippen. However, as Silverstein noted in his interview with Gill, the Ohio native made the final play of the Bulls dynasty in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals against the Utah Jazz.
Ron Harper played excellent defense on John Stockton after Michael Jordan gave the Bulls the lead
After Jordan hit a jumper with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Bulls a one-point lead, Harper played outstanding defense on John Stockton on Utah’s final possession.
“I always say that after Michael hit the last shot against Utah, we still had a defensive possession,” said Silverstein. “It was Harper guarding Stockton. Stockton had a pretty good look at a three, except he had Harper in his face who changed that shot.”
During the Bulls’ second three-peat, Jordan and Pippen were the superstars. However, Harper was the underrated point guard who set up the offense and guarded multiple players on defense. He also helped convinced Pippen not to accept a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers in February 1995.
Harp told Scottie Pippen playing for Clippers was like being in jail
Pippen requested a trade from the Bulls during the 1994-95 season and was almost traded to the Clippers, who offered Chicago two first-round picks and the right to swap picks the following two seasons. However, the All-Star small forward changed his mind after Harper described his time with the Clippers as a jail stint.
Jordan came out of retirement near the end of the 1994-95 season. Although the Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, they rebounded by winning three consecutive rings in 1996, 1997, and 1998.
Harper averaged 7.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 steals from 1995-96 to 1997-98. He developed a close bond with Jordan and Pippen, so much so that he started training with the basketball legends in the famous “breakfast club.”
Jordan and Pippen won six rings together in Chicago and never lost in the Finals. Meanwhile, Harper won three championships with the Bulls and two with the Los Angeles Lakers.
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