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“If I could trade it to stay the course that I was on, I probably would.” - Dennis Hopson would swap his '91 ring for more playing time

99% of players would take the deal that Dennis Hopson got, but to him, it's all about the game.
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan and Dennis Hopson

Michael Jordan and Dennis Hopson

Today, you’ll find Dennis Hopson coaching the Lourdes Gray Wolves men’s basketball team in Ohio. But once upon a time, the third overall pick of the 1987 NBA Draft was running alongside Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls and was part of the ‘90/’91 championship team that kicked off the Bulls dynasty. For most players, that would rank among the top highlights of their respective careers - but not for Hopson.

Hopson wanted more

As we covered in our interview with Hopson, he wasn’t OK with getting traded from the New Jersey Nets to the Bulls immediately after the 1989-90 season, a season in which he led the Nets in scoring with 15.8 points per game. Many would have been cool to tag along with Jordan and the Bulls to be a part of the ride of one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports, but Hopson wanted more. 

“It was said that we would be able to play together a lot because Michael would move over to the point guard position. We played a couple of games together, but no major minutes. What was said didn't actually happen, and even when it was said, I didn't believe that it would happen.” 

Dennis Hopson, 1-ON-1 with Basketball Network

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The silver lining was that he finished his career with a championship ring - that’s not a bad silver lining. But Hopson wasn’t happy with such an outcome. The competitor in him wanted a more prominent role, even if it came at the price of not winning an NBA title. In an interview with BCSN, Hopson revealed he’d make a sacrifice most players would never do. 

Hopson accomplished what many NBA players fail to do by winning a championship, but because he didn’t play as much as he wanted to, it didn’t matter to him.

Dennis Hopson’s perspective on winning an NBA championship is truly unique

Many great NBA players go through their careers without winning it all and often lament their inability to win on the biggest stage. Hopson even mentions “a mega star like Charles Barkley” as a guy who accomplished so much in his career but couldn’t bring home that elusive championship. Hopson was a part of something that many people never will be a part of, but his lack of involvement seems to have prevented him from fully appreciating what he accomplished.

For that reason, Hopson’s perspective on winning a ring is so unique. Rarely do we see a player suggest they would trade the crowning achievement of their career for more playing time or a longer career, but that’s exactly what Hopson is suggesting here. Some may be irritated by Hopson’s perceived lack of respect for the sheer amount of skill it takes to win an NBA title, but his argument is valid, even if it is a unique perspective among professional athletes.

Hopson saw his career get derailed during his one season in Chicago. His minutes per game went from 32 to 11 in just one season, and after spending the following season with the Sacramento Kings, he would end up spending the rest of his career overseas, which Hopson would later say was “the biggest mistake of my career.” 

He got his ring, but he lost the chance to write his own legacy in the process, and while many would take the ring over legacy, Hopson would have rather written his own legacy than see it get reduced to being a small piece of the Bulls dynasty.

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