A few weeks ago, my talented SB Nation colleagues dropped a new entry in their “Beef History” series, detailing the feud between Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley. It is worth a watch in its entirety because it’s hilarious and informative, but also because it made me aware of a storyline I hadn’t previously known about: That Pippen tried to get the Rockets to trade him to the Lakers before the 1999-2000 season:
Can you imagine how great that a big three of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Pippen would have been? As good as the Shaq and Kobe Lakers were, and ignoring potential cap complications for a moment, that feels like a trio that would have been unstoppable.
However, according to the man in charge of building the Lakers at the time, it was also never a realistic possibility. Former Lakers executive Jerry West told Bill Oram and Jason Quick of The Athletic that Pippen discussions didn’t ever really take place:
“There wasn’t one conversation in my mind about him... I’ve always admired Scottie Pippen as a player. But listen, we did fine. OK? We did fine.”
It’s safe to say that West is right on that last part. The Lakers, as you’ll remember, promptly won the next three championships in a row. That’s slightly better than “fine,” so while it’s hard to lament them not adding Pippen to such an already-talented group, it would have been fascinating to see what they would have looked like from a basketball perspective with him on the wing alongside young Kobe — possibly the best wing defense pairing ever assembled — and helping set up Shaq in the triangle.
As good as the Lakers ended up being, with Pippen the Lakers might have been actual basketball nirvana.
Pippen ended up becoming a Lakers assistant coach during training camp under Phil Jackson later (that’s where the picture at the top of this post comes from), but that’s as close as he’d get to donning the purple and gold. Again, it’s hard to complain too much about that given how well things went, especially because it was apparently far less close to happening than reports at the time would have led one to believe. But it’s still one of the many Lakers hypotheticals it’s interesting to think about while we wait for basketball to return.