Scottie Pippen signed with the Rockets as a free agent, but he engineered a trade just one year after. Charles Barkley had something to do with it.
The 1998-99 NBA season saw a sea change in how the power structure of the league was shaped. Michael Jordan had retired, and the greatest and most popular dynasty in league history was now a relic. This meant that new teams had to try and come in to fill the power vacuum.
It wasn’t like there was a lack of competition or anything. Kobe Bryant was coming into his own in his age-20 season alongside one Shaquille O’Neal. The San Antonio Spurs had the most talented big man duo in the game in David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
John Stockton and Karl Malone had just been to two Finals, so they weren’t going away all that easily. The East still had the New York Knicks with Patrick Ewing patrolling their paint. Reggie Miller and his Indiana Pacers were no joke either.
This meant that every other team’s path to a championship involved acquiring more talent around their centerpieces. With Hakeem Olajuwon in their ranks, the Rockets had no plans of folding and giving up on dreams of a 3rd championship in the decade just yet.
Scottie Pippen roasts Charles Barkley for his play on the Houston Rockets
They’d already signed Charles Barkley as a free agent in 1996. Although the power forward had begun to decline by then, he was still an able supporting member for The Dream. But they still needed a truly elite perimeter defender to fill the void.
That’s where 6-time champion Scottie Pippen comes in. Pippen was the league’s most underpaid star over his 2 final Bulls seasons, so he was out to make hay as it still rained. He signed a 5-year, $67 million contract, expecting to find more postseason success.
But Scottie’s hopes came to nought. The Rockets struggled through a lockout-shortened season with a 31-19 record and bowed out in the early rounds of the playoffs. The fit between Pippen, Barkley and Olajuwon was never cemented before Scottie demanded a trade to the Blazers.
Scottie alleges that Charles Barkley’s work ethic had a ton to do with the Rockets faltering in the playoffs:
“He’s a very selfish guy. 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.”
The Blazers made a Conference Finals run in 2000, but Scottie Pippen would never return to the Finals again.