The Clippers, who were a perennial playoff team during the Jordan era and have since become one of the worst teams in basketball. One would think that this trade was so lopsided it never happened, but Michael Jordan is still remembered as arguably the greatest player to ever lace up his sneakers.
The “laclippers” is a trade that was never completed. The Clippers nearly gave it all up for Michael Jordan, but the Chicago Bulls pulled out at the last minute.
Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the best basketball player in NBA history. Jordan was a 14-time All-Star, a 10-time scoring champion, and a six-time league champion, all while earning Finals MVP each time. Jordan will always be the second-best player of all time, at the very least.
The Los Angeles Clippers hope they could claim Jordan’s legacy. The squad had a poor track record in the past. The franchise has never won an NBA title despite reaching the NBA Finals in its 50-year history. The franchise has improved in recent years, but it still has a long way to go before it reaches Jordan’s level.
Jordan, it turns out, might have turned the team’s fortunes around. After the 1987-1988 season, the Chicago Bulls were on the verge of trading Jordan. Would the Clippers have reigned supreme in Los Angeles if that had happened? Here’s the deal that was supposed to happen but never did.
The Trade Specifications
Los Angeles Clippers are a professional basketball team based in Los Angeles Michael Jordan (received)
Michael Cage, Mike Woodson, Ken Norman, and two first-round selection choices move to the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls were interested in trading Jordan to the Clippers for the No. 1 and No. 6 selections in the 1988 NBA Draft four years into his career. According to former Chicago Tribune reporter Sam Smith’s book The Jordan Rules, the Clippers were also prepared to provide three players of Chicago’s choice.
The three players were never named, but if we looked at the three greatest players for Chicago’s squad, Michael Cage, Mike Woodson, and Ken Norman would have been the most plausible candidates. To help shore up the offense, Smith claimed the Bulls were considering trading Charles Oakley or Horace Grant for Kevin Johnson.
Jordan had already established himself as a star at this stage in his career. He was an All-Star for four consecutive seasons and led the league with 3.50 points and 3.2 steals per game, earning him MVP honors. With that in mind, the Bulls were coming off a first-round loss to the Detroit Pistons, and management was beginning to wonder whether Jordan couldn’t get his teammates involved enough to propel Chicago to the top.
The Arrangement Failed
Jordan never made it to Los Angeles in the end. The reasons for the deal’s failure were never given. All we know is that the Bulls chose to trust Jordan and stay with the present administration, despite the fact that the draft capital they would have gotten would have allowed them to pursue their own career paths.
“Ultimately, the transaction fell through, and those two selections became Danny Manning and Hersey Hawkins (who was traded for Charles Smith, the third pick in the 1988 Draft, with a future first-round pick).” Manning was fantastic in his six seasons with the Rams, but he clearly wasn’t on par with Jordan.”
One simple explanation for the deal’s failure is that the Bulls risked being chastised for selling away the defending MVP. That would have been a gutsy decision early in Jerry Krause’s tenure as a General Manager, regardless of the backlash. The Clippers, on the other hand, were not operated like a championship team, so who knows how much Jordan would have put up with before leaving.
If a trade occurs, the following is the projected lineup for the Clippers.
Michael Jordan (PG)
Quintin Dailey, SG
Reggie Williams (SF)
Joe Wolf, PF
Benoit Benjamin Benoit Benjamin Benoit Benjamin Benoit Benjamin Benoit
The results were remarkable when Doug Collins coached the Bulls and switched him to point guard during the 1988-1989 season. As the team’s point guard, Jordan averaged 32.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.3 rebounds in 41 regular season and playoff games. During that time, he had seven straight triple-doubles. It would have needed some excellent coaching to make this move, but given the team’s lack of genuine point guards, it was a possibility, and we all know what would have occurred if it had gone through.
In terms of the supporting cast, the power forward position would be vulnerable, since reserve Joe Wolf would be forced to start. Benoit Benjamin had a good season, averaging 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds. Quintin Dailey was coming off a season in which he averaged 13.7 points per game, but he shot only 16 percent from three-point range. Reggie Williams, on the other hand, was coming off a season in which he averaged 10.7 points per game. Because his supporting cast was a downgrade, Jordan would have had unlimited range to play anything he pleased.
If a trade occurs, the following is the projected lineup for the Bulls.
Sam Vincent (PG)
Mike Woodson, SG
Scottie Pippen (SF)
Michael Cage (PF)
Horace Grant (C)
Michael Cage would have been a sign-and-trade option, but he would have had to be included in the transaction. The previous year, Cage was the team’s top player, averaging 14.5 points and 13.0 rebounds. Horace Grant would have shifted to the center position, with Bill Cartwright as the backup.
The third player is still up in the air, although Ken Norman showed a lot of promise when he was younger. The Bulls may have requested Norman as a third player who could have developed as a regular backup to Cage. Woodson, on the other hand, was the Clippers’ best scorer, averaging 18.0 points per game, and would have replaced Jordan as the starting shooting guard. Because the Bulls had just acquired Sam Vincent during the previous season, he would have stayed at point guard.
There’s a lot to think about here. To begin with, the Clippers only won 21 games in 1988-1989. The squad would go on to lose the next two seasons until making the playoffs in 1992. The Clippers would lose in the first round for the next two seasons before missing the playoffs for three years in a row. Jordan had already led the Bulls to three consecutive championships from 1991 to 1993.
Cage would join the Denver Nuggets, while Mike Woodson would join the Rockets, as their two greatest players would depart the Clippers. Ken Norman had a fantastic season the next year, averaging 18.1 points and 8.3 rebounds, but he never made an All-Star appearance in his career. Manning scored 16.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in his first season with the Clippers, and he went on to make two All-Star selections. Hawkins was traded for Charles Smith, a four-year veteran with no All-Star appearances with the Clippers.
Jordan’s Bulls were defeated by the Pistons in back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. Jordan was inspired to work with his teammates and himself to improve their entire game. Jordan led the Bulls over the Pistons in 1991 on their route to their first of three titles, which included players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Bill Cartwright who management had previously assumed he couldn’t include.
Jordan would go on to lead the Bulls to three more titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998 after retiring in 1993. His MVP, scoring championships, and other honors would go a long way toward cementing his reputation as the greatest player of all time. The Bulls franchise grew from obscurity to a globally recognized brand that is still highly appreciated today.
For what seems like an eternity, the Lakers have had basketball rights in Los Angeles. The Lakers have always had stars, from Jerry West to Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar through Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to now LeBron James. What if the Clippers used Chicago’s dominance in the 1990s to their advantage? Would Los Angeles be the exclusive owner of all basketball superstars today? What would have been the impact on the league? In any case, the Clippers have a history of being on the wrong side of basketball history, and they were on the wrong side when this deal fell through.
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