George Karl: Michael Jordan endorsed Scottie Pippen trade to Sonics
The release of George Karl’s book, Furious George, is certainly turning some heads.
An excerpt from the book details a blockbuster trade back in 1994 that Michael Jordan approved that would have sent Scottie Pippen to the Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for Shawn Kemp, Ricky Pierce and a first-round pick.
“The Bulls saw an opportunity. Four days before the draft, Jerry Krause called. The Chicago GM, who’d visited me in Spain, had a proposal: Kemp, Pierce, and our number one for Scottie Pippen. Pippen was the best small forward, or 3, in the league. Nothing he wasn’t good at. During one of Michael’s retirements, Scottie led his team in all five of the main categories—rebounds, scoring, blocks, steals, and assists—so rare that it had only happened once before in NBA history (Dave Cowens, for the Celtics, in 1977-78). But with his running buddy MJ now a baseball player, maybe Pippen was a little disconnected. When I tried to imagine the Sonics without Shawn I knew I’d miss him, but I got pretty excited picturing Gary and Scottie teaming up on a trap; they’d smother opposing guards. But every trade prompts a debate. I was in favor of this one but I wasn’t sure.
So I called Michael. We talked about minor-league baseball, North Carolina basketball, and golf. Then we talked about the big deal on the table. Should we do this?
“Do it,” he said. “Scottie can make your other players better. Kemp can’t.”
So, the day before the draft, we said yes. News of the trade immediately leaked out and onto the KJR airwaves. More anger from the callers, a lot more; our fans loved Shawn. Again, Ackerley listened. That afternoon, he called our draft headquarters in the Sonics locker room. It doesn’t feel right, he told Wally. Better wait. I had the unpleasant job of calling Krause, who was not happy.
While we dragged our feet on draft day, Krause got desperate. He called to tell me the Bulls would drop the demand for our number one pick. He offered a big chunk of money in the next call. Then he called back to double it. Literally minutes before the draft started, Ackerley backed us out of the deal. When I delivered the bad news, Krause dropped f-bombs and called me names. We’d keep Kemp, they’d keep Pippen.”
This would’ve altered NBA history quite a bit.
MJ and Pippen of course went on to win three more titles when Jordan came out of retirement. In 1996, the 72-10 Bulls beat the Sonics in the NBA Finals.