There is no question that the 90’s Chicago Bulls are one of, if not the greatest teams and runs in NBA history. Six championships in eight seasons, two three-peats, the second-best record in history (72-10), and one of the most unique and special collections of greats with guys like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Phil Jackson all on one team.
Nobody was touching the Bulls back then, but the age-old question always pops up. Could it have been eight championships if Michael didn’t retire for almost two seasons? The Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, took the opportunity and grabbed two championships of their own before MJ returned the Bulls to glory. But the two teams never faced in the Finals. Would the Rockets have still won if they played MJ in the Finals? Clyde Drexler believes history would have stayed the same.
“Clyde the Glide” keeps it simple
Sure, you can say MJ was back with the Bulls during the 1995 season, but that was a very specific situation in which Jordan returned near the end of the regular season, without a training camp behind him or enough time to gel back with his team. That eventually led to the Bulls losing to the Penny & Shaq Magic, as the matchup with the Rockets never became a reality.
That Rockets team was headlined by one of the best centers in the game, Hakeem Olajuwon, surrounded by a tremendous supporting cast of guys like Robert Horry, Vernon Maxwell, Kenny Smith, Otis Thorpe, Mario Elie, and in their second run, Clyde Drexler. The Hall-of-Famer got traded from Portland in the middle of the season, reuniting with his college teammate Hakeem, as he played a crucial role in the Rockets going back to back, winning his first and only championship.
Being in Houston at the time and having the experience of playing Jordan numerous times in some heated battles, being possibly his biggest rival, makes Clyde Drexler the perfect guy to ask how the Finals matchup between those Rockets teams and the Jordan Bulls would have looked. A few years ago, in an interview with Chris Broussard, Clyde shared his opinion:
“I think Jordan played in 1994-1995, and I think Orlando swept them. And then we swept Orlando. There’s your answer. Not taking nothing away from them, they were phenomenal. I actually talk about what happened, not what could of happened. You gotta look at it in terms of absolute. Things that are absolute. This is what happened.”Clyde Drexler, In the Zone’ with Chris Broussard Podcast
In the later years, the Rockets never managed to get out the West again, as the Sonics and the Jazz presented too much of a challenge at the time. But in the regular-season games between the Bulls and the Rockets, Houston would often get the best out of Chicago and present an unstoppable problem by the name of Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Bulls didn’t have such inside presence or the personnel to stop “The Dream.” So it’s only natural to think that the Bulls could not have stopped Hakeem in the postseason. Especially when you take into account how Olajuwon would even step up his game on the biggest stage. It’s a true shame we never got to see that Finals matchup.