Did you know Michael Jordan was almost a Clipper? Twice?


It’s difficult knowing everything about everything. While the big news gets over-covered, hundreds of small details fall through the cracks as history continues to move on.

Want an example? The consensus greatest NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan, Mr. six-time NBA champion, five-time Most Valuable Player, one-time Defensive Player of the Year, and any other accolade he’s crossed paths with, was almost traded to the Los Angeles Clippers; not one, but twice, per SB Nation’s Justin Russo.

The Clippers’ first attempt to trade for Michael Jordan occurred in the summer of 1984 when the franchise attempted to move up in the draft to select the North Carolina shooting guard.

Russo wrote the following:

"According to the June 17, 1984 edition of the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls were talking with the Seattle SuperSonics about trading for center Jack Sikma before those talks ultimately broke down. When they did, they readjusted their focus and set their sights on Clippers big man Terry Cummings – a 6’9” power forward who was the second pick in the 1982 NBA Draft and averaged just over 23 points per game in his first two seasons in the league. Cummings was born and raised in Chicago – even going to Carver High School, which is roughly just 20 miles away from the United Center – before ultimately heading off to Chicago-based DePaul University for college. In a proposed three-team deal between the Bulls, Clippers, and Dallas Mavericks, Cummings would have been shipped off to Chicago and the third overall pick might have been coming back to Los Angeles. That deal, unfortunately, fell through and the Clippers were unsuccessful in their first attempt to possibly acquire Michael Jordan."

The second attempt to trade for Jordan came at a later date, during a time where the Bulls’ brass began to question whether Jordan’s style of play was conducive to winning a NBA championship. “There was a large dividing line among Bulls management that led to a theory that the team would “never win a title because Jordan’s style of one-on-one play eliminated the other players as contributors,” wrote Russo.

"Donald Sterling would swoop in with an offer of a lifetime. The Clippers weren’t exactly teeming with above-average NBA talent at the time and were coming off a 17-65 season. However, according to the book, Sterling offered Reinsdorf and the Bulls any combination of five players and/or draft picks. No one knows the names of players floated around, but it seems that players like Michael Cage, Benoit Benjamin, and Mike Woodson would probably have been involved in the deal. The real prizes, however, were the two top six draft picks that the Clippers owned going into the 1988 NBA Draft; one of which being the top overall selection. Jerry Krause, the then – and now former – general manager of the Chicago Bulls, reportedly loved 7’4” Rik Smits. They also were high on Mitch Richmond if he were to be available with the sixth selection. Reinsdorf and Krause, at least for a moment, were drooling at the thought of building a team around Smits, Richmond, Oakley, Pippen, and Grant; all the while still allowing them to either select a point guard in the draft, such as Rod Strickland, or trade for one with their dearth of assets, such as Kevin Johnson. The wheels were in motion.Jordan was coming off of being the Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, and the league’s leading scorer during the 1987-1988 season, but the Bulls were still close to dealing him away for two high draft picks. Ultimately, Jerry Reinsdorf told Donald Sterling that he would not be going through with the deal. Why? Quite simply, Michael Jordan was too profitable and too talented for the Bulls to toss to the side."

One thing is obvious: the Bulls made the right decision. Fast forward ten years into the future and Jordan and the Chicago Bulls are owners of six NBA championships, putting Chicago in conversation with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics as one of the best franchises ever, and in the same, thrust Jordan into the conversation as best NBA player ever.

Meanwhile, the Clippers… clipped.

It’s no guarantee the same fortune Jordan had with the Bulls occurs if a move is made that sends the shooting guard to Los Angeles, because nothing in the same time period shows Donald Sterling and company capable of surrounding the shooting guard with a capable supporting cast, because the deeds doesn’t get done without the likes of Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, or whoever else’s presence was instrumental in six championships in a ten-year span.

More from Clipperholics

It’s a wonderful hypothetical, and obvious the best of any featuring the Clippers, such as Moses Malone sticking with the team after the Bob McAdoo trade, or signing Kobe Bryant in free agency, and a recent “what-if” like the team not trading a first-round pick for Mo Williams and later drafting the exciting Kyrie Irving in 2011, or drafting Rudy Gobert in the 2013 NBA draft instead of Reggie Bullock.

To let out your frustrations of Jordan almost being a Clipper, try throwing the all-time shooting guard on the franchise in NBA 2K to make yourself happy.

Next: Remembering Dominique Wilkins' time with the Clippers