Having no Scottie Pippen was not the only reason for Jordan’s struggles in the first three seasons of his career. Jordan was drafted to a team of multiple cocaine addicts, including the late Orlando Woolridge and Quintin Dailey, both of whom eventually left the team due to their addictions.
Jordan also missed nearly his entire 2nd season due to a broken foot, during which the Bulls went 21-43 without Jordan. MJ only played two full seasons before playing with Pippen thanks to his injury. Going off an extremely selective two-season sample size, one can point out that LeBron James didn’t even make the playoffs his first 2 seasons, or that Shaquille O’Neal had an 0-3 playoff record after his first 2 seasons. Now let’s break it down:
- 1985 – Jordan’s rookie year. Bulls lost 3-1 to the Bucks. Jordan went for 30 PPG and 9 APG,
- 1986 – Jordan only played 22 regular season games. Bulls lost 3-0 to the Celtics. Bird’s Celtics went on the win the championship and are possibly the best team ever. Jordan put up almost 44 PPG,
- 1987 – Bulls lost 3-0 to the Celtics. But again, the Celtics were one of the best teams ever. Jordan averaged 37 PPG.
This is one of those stats that sound shocking until you look into it. Jordan was young, he was injured one year and the Bulls played one of the best dynasties in basketball history. So the results aren’t shocking at all. To be fair to Jordan, as was noted above he was a young player his first few seasons with the Bulls and he was playing against better teams.
Having said that, Scottie Pippen significantly helped Michael Jordan win and in many ways was a perfect fit for Jordan; Pippen did everything well and almost everything really well, but his weakest attribute was scoring (which is what Jordan did best and wanted to do most). If Pippen doesn’t become a star and then superstar-caliber player (and he did so in about 1991, not coincidentally the year the Bulls won their first NBA title), we can say that Jordan probably wouldn’t win all six NBA titles.