Episode 2 of “The Last Dance” ended with something most people forgot – Scottie Pippen’s trade request. Scottie was done with the Bulls and wanted to move on. The Bulls granted his wish a few months later than he had planned, with a 6th ring on his hand. In the summer of ’98, Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets to join Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley.
Sounds like a monster team, but when you do the math, the result is a 33-yr old Pippen, 35-yr old Barkley, and 36-yr old Hakeem. A lot of experience and a lot of miles on those legs. The mileage turned up in the playoffs, even though ‘98/’99 was a short season due to the lockout. An old Rockets team lost 3-1 to the young Shaq & Kobe Lakers. After their first-round exit, Pippen requested a trade to the – Los Angeles Lakers.
“I probably should’ve listened to Michael [Jordan] a year ago when he said that Charles will never win a championship because he doesn’t show any dedication. He’s a very selfish guy. He doesn’t show the desire to want to win. That’s my reason for wanting to get away from playing with him -because he just doesn’t show the dedication.”Scottie Pippen, via LA Times
This comment happened after Barkley said Pippen owes him an apology. He was disappointed and criticized Pippen for the trade request. Scottie made it very clear is there any chance of him apologizing.
“I wouldn’t give Charles Barkley an apology at gunpoint. If anything, he owes me an apology for coming to play with his fat butt.”Scottie Pippen, via LA Times
Barkley’s not foreign to putting on some weight. He famously gained 20 pounds in 48 hours before the draft trying to prevent the 76ers from trading for him. But after they still did, Moses Malone got him in shape and helped him find his ideal playing weight. Was Barkley at 35 at the top of his conditioning? Probably not. But Barkley claimed he only got fat the following season, and that was after the Rockets shortchanged him on his contract.
“The only year that I was fat was my last year in Houston because they had promised me $12 million. When I showed up, the contract was only for $8 million. And I said, ‘What happened to my other $4 million?’ They said, ‘Well, we just decided to keep it.’”Charles Barkley, Any Given Wednesday
This provided context for Barkley’s demand for an apology. They promised him $12 million for ‘99/’00 because he took a discount the year before so the Rockets could bring in Pippen. When the Rockets changed their mind about the $12 million, Barkley changed his mind about keeping a straight diet – after Pippen left. Scottie leaving and saying one of the main reasons was Barkley’s lack of dedication after he took a discount didn’t sit well with Sir Charles. His response to Pippen’s “apology at gunpoint” comment was vintage Barkley.
It’s not impossible that Pippen’s definition of staying in shape and Barkley’s differed. But for a 35-year-old who transitioned to a bully-ball style of play under the rim, Barkley was in OK shape. Watching “The Last Dance,” and seeing what kind of environment and attitude Pippen spent his 90s in, OK shape was never going to be good enough.