While speaking about The Last Dance, former Houston Rockets guard Cuttino Mobley shared his own Michael Jordan-related experience, including how MJ came around the team a lot during Mobley’s rookie season.
Like the rest of the basketball world, former Houston Rockets guard Cuttino Mobley has been watching the ESPN docu-series The Last Dance intently. We had all been waiting for the film to air since we were first teased with the trailer back in December of 2018, and it’s certainly lived up to the hype.
Mobley shares a different experience than most of us, however, as he played against Michael Jordan three times, and scored at least 24 points in all three contests. The Rockets went 2-1 during those three games, but let’s face it, the Washington Wizards weren’t nearly the team Jordan’s Bulls were. But the Rockets weren’t contenders either, as they missed the playoffs in each of the two seasons in which Mobley faced Jordan, which came in the 2001-02 season and the 2002-03 season.
Interestingly enough, Jordan’s Wizards had a better record than the Rockets in the 2001-02 season, as the Rockets were 28-54, while the Wizards were 37-45. Mobley also played with Scottie Pippen in Houston as a rookie, which happened to be Pippen’s only season in the Space City.
Although Pippen and the Rockets had an ugly exit, Pippen shared wisdom and knowledge with the young Mobley, who was seeking to learn from veterans like him, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Mobley shared his experience with the Hall of Fame trio during a Saturday appearance on Fox Sports Radio, alongside Steve Hartmann.
Mobley said: “I’m so grateful that Scottie, Barkley, and Olajuwon were my vets when I came into the league. Scottie always talked to me about the business of the game, but as a 23-year-old, I didn’t necessarily understand.”
It’s no fault of Mobley’s that he couldn’t relate because he was a rookie out of Rhode Island, who had just gotten selected in the second round of the 1998 NBA Draft. He had much different circumstances than Pippen. At that point, Pippen had been in the league for 11 years and had certainly seen the business side of things, based on his experience in Chicago.
During the film, Pippen’s humble beginnings were on display, as he grew up in rural Arkansas, and didn’t necessarily live lavishly as a youth. This played a large part in Pippen’s decision to agree to a seven-year contract extension with the Bulls in 1991, which paid him just $18 million over the life of the deal.
As Pippen’s play ascended, he began to realize he was underpaid and demanded a trade, which ultimately came with the Houston Rockets via a sign-and-trade deal that paid him up to $82 million. This acquisition took place right before Cuttino Mobley’s rookie season in 1998-99.
Although Pippen had changed uniforms, Michael Jordan continued to support his good friend in Houston, according to Mobley. Mobley later stated, “Jordan and Pippen stayed close in Houston, and Jordan would come around a lot.”
It’s far from shocking to hear that MJ came around the Rockets a lot in 1998-99 because he had already retired for his second time by that point, so he had a lot of free time on his hands. And during the featured film, Jordan was keeping up with the Bulls in 1993, despite embarking on a baseball career.
And given how Jordan openly confessed that he’s never won a title without Pippen, one can expect that Jordan would’ve followed Pippen’s journey in Houston.