After the Chicago Bulls won their sixth championship in 1998, Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson retired, and Scottie Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets to team up with Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Bulls and Rockets agreed to a sign-and-trade deal involving Pippen, who got a five-year, $67.2 million contract. The six-time champion was looking forward to playing with Barkley since the two were teammates on the 1992 Dream Team.
However, Pippen and Barkley weren’t a dynamic duo in Houston, and their relationship took a turn for the worse.
The Rockets went 31-19 in 1998-99
The 1998-99 season was only 50 games due to a lockout. Led by Pippen, Barkley, and Olajuwon, the Rockets went 31-19 and finished with the seventh-best scoring offense in the NBA.
Olajuwon led Houston in scoring at 18.9 points per game. He was no longer an MVP-caliber player, though, since he was 36-years-old and had many miles on his body.
Barkley put up 16.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, while Pippen averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 boards, and 5.9 assists. The Rockets made the playoffs behind their Big Three and were the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
However, Pippen and Barkley didn’t get along in Houston. Barkley felt Pippen was too inflexible, while Pippen felt Barkley was lazy and out of shape. Their differences were unfixable and played a big role in the Rockets losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 1999 playoffs.
After Houston got bounced by the Lakers, Pippen requested a trade, and all hell broke loose between him and Barkley.
Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley trade jabs
After Pippen requested a trade from the Rockets, Barkley did an interview and said he was disappointed. Chuck sacrificed to make salary cap room on the Rockets for Pippen, so he was upset the Bulls icon was leaving after one season.
“For him to want to leave after one year, it disappointed me greatly,” Barkley said. ”The Rockets went out of their way to get Scottie, and the fans have treated him well, so I was just disappointed in him.”
Once Pippen heard Barkley’s comments, he destroyed the 1992-93 MVP while talking to ESPN by calling him “fat” and “lazy.”
“He’s a very selfish guy,” Pippen said. “He doesn’t show the desire to want to win. I wouldn’t give Charles Barkley an apology at gunpoint. He can never expect an apology from me. If anything, he owes me an apology for coming to play with his fat butt.”
Pippen wanted the Rockets to trade him to the Lakers since Jackson came out of retirement to join the franchise. However, Houston wound up sending the seven-time All-Star to another team in the Pacific Division.
Rockets and Blazers agree to a trade
On October 2, 1999, the Rockets traded Pippen to the Portland Trail Blazers for Stacey Augmon, Kelvin Cato, Ed Gray, Carlos Rogers, Brian Shaw, and Walt Williams. The 1994-95 steals champion played four seasons in Portland and averaged 11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists.
In Pippen’s first season with the Blazers, the team made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, they lost to the Lakers in seven games.
Pippen played 23 games for the Bulls in 2003-04 before retiring. He finished his NBA career with averages of 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.