The Houston Rockets nearly pulled off a trade that would’ve brought Dennis Rodman to the Space City in 1997, before Michael Jordan intervened.
At the conclusion of the 1996-97 season, the Chicago Bulls front office had their sights on a complete rebuild. They felt their championship window had closed and wanted to get rid of Scottie Pippen, who had developed a rift with then general manager Jerry Krause. Pippen was eventually dealt to the Houston Rockets a year later, which was the start of the Bulls’ shake up.
But many may not be aware of the fact that the Rockets nearly landed Dennis Rodman in a trade they had discussed with the Bulls a year before they landed Pippen. The Rockets were offering Charles Barkley for Pippen and Rodman, which made sense for a number of reasons.
Barkley was making significantly more than Pippen, so the Bulls were going to have to include an additional player from a salary standpoint. And if the Bulls landed Barkley, they wouldn’t have had a need for Rodman, as both were stellar rebounders, while Barkley was a much better offensive player.
In theory, the Bulls were getting Pippen’s offense and Rodman’s rebounding all in one player, so they were open to including Rodman in the trade. The trade would’ve been beneficial for Rodman also, as he stated he was no longer capable of being the dominant rebounder he had been due to father time.
Rodman stated, “My rebounding days, as far as getting 20 or 25, are over,” which meant him joining forces with Hakeem Olajuwon would’ve taken the pressure off of him on that front. Olajuwon twice led the league in rebounds and was consistently one of the league’s most dominant players on the glass.
Ultimately the trade never happened because Michael Jordan intervened, citing his inability to play alongside Barkley, which was the only way the Bulls would’ve included Rodman. They simply couldn’t afford to lose a dominant rebounder like Rodman without getting one back, like Barkley.
But what if the Rockets did land Rodman? Would his presence have led to another Rockets championship during the 1997-98 season? It’s a safe bet, as Pippen/Rodman would’ve joined an already accomplished Rockets duo of Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, not to mention a championship coach in Rudy Tomjanovich.
The Rockets were ultimately eliminated by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, which wasn’t exactly surprising considering their 41-41 record that season. It’s safe to say a team that consisted of Pippen, Rodman, Olajuwon, and Drexler would’ve been enough to make it past not only the Jazz, but also the Bulls, who would’ve had Barkley instead.
We’ll always be left to wonder how much Rodman would’ve improved the Rockets and how many more titles the Houston Rockets would’ve won with him, because the trade never happened. Thanks Michael Jordan.