Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest players in NBA history and the second-best player to ever play for the Chicago Bulls. His number 33 hangs in the rafters at the United Center, and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Many casual basketball fans forget that the Bulls didn’t draft Pippen. The Seattle SuperSonics drafted the small forward with the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft and traded him to Chicago on draft night. The Bulls clearly won the trade, capturing six titles in the ’90s behind Michael Jordan and Pippen.
The SuperSonics realized they made a mistake trading Pippen on draft night, which is why they tried to acquire the All-NBA defender after the 1993-94 season. However, they backed out at the last minute after angry fans flooded them with calls.
Scottie Pippen had tremendous 1993-94 season, but his rep took a big hit
Pippen had a stellar 1993-94 season for the Bulls. He was the No. 1 option on offense since Jordan played baseball and put up spectacular numbers. The do-it-all swingman averaged 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.9 steals while shooting 49.1% from the field, 32.0% from beyond the arc, and 66.0% from the free-throw line.
The Bulls won 55 games in 1993-94, and Pippen finished third in MVP voting. Phil Jackson‘s group swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the ’94 playoffs but ran into trouble in the second round against the New York Knicks. Pippen and Co. lost the first two games of the series and were in jeopardy of going down 3-0 after the Knicks tied Game 3 at 102 with 1.8 seconds left in regulation.
Pippen thought Jackson would draw up the game-winning play for him, but the Zen Master called Toni Kukoc‘s number instead. Pippen refused to go back into the game after he saw Jackson call the play for Kukoc, who wound up hitting a two-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bulls the win.
Even though Pippen apologized to his Bulls teammates, his reputation around the NBA took a big hit. As a result, several NBA fans — most notably SuperSonics supporters — wanted nothing to do with the 1993-94 All-Star Game MVP.
SuperSonics fans angrily called team after Scottie Pippen trade rumor
“The Bulls would try to trade Pippen after the 1993-94 season to the Seattle SuperSonics for Shawn Kemp,” Smith wrote in 2009. “But Seattle backed out at the last minute when word got out and angry fans, influenced by the famous 1.8-second walkout, flooded the team with calls because they didn’t want Pippen with all his baggage and attitude issues.”
SuperSonics fans had no interest in cheering for Pippen despite recognizing how talented he was. The Bulls should thank those fans for impacting Seattle’s decision in regards to a Pippen trade, as once Jordan retired to the NBA, he and Pippen wreaked havoc on the league again.
Bulls beat Seattle in ’96 Finals and won two more rings in ’97 and ’98
Jordan and Pippen led the Bulls to 72 wins during the 1995-96 season. Chicago faced the SuperSonics in the ’96 Finals and won the series in six games. Jordan won Finals MVP, but Pippen showed that Seattle made a mistake by not trading for him. He put up 15.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game and played exceptional defense.
Kemp played one more season with the SuperSonics after the Finals loss to the Bulls. Seattle traded him to the Cavaliers in 1997. Meanwhile, Pippen won two more championships in Chicago alongside Jordan to reach six titles for his career.
Pippen certainly came with a lot of baggage. However, the SuperSonics will forever regret not trading for him in 1994 just because a certain number of fans didn’t want him on the team.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.