Even if Michael Jordan chose not to retire from basketball for almost two full seasons to play baseball, former NBA forward Robert Horry thinks his Houston Rockets would’ve defeated the Bulls if the two teams met in the 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals.
On this week’s Scoop B Radio podcast, Horry said his team would’ve conquered Chicago regardless of if they had Jordan, who returned to the court in March of 1995, or not.
“But I truly believe the way that we were playing and that big dominant force, Hakeem Olajuwon, that we had down there was too much,” Horry said.
The Rockets won the 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals, with Olajuwon winning series MVP both times, but some speculate what the result could’ve been if Jordan’s Bulls were Houston’s opposition in both of those years. Chicago won three championships in a row from 1991-93.
Horry thinks the Bulls were a good matchup for players like Olajuwon, a Hall of Fame center and Rockets franchise scoring leader with 26,511 points.
“I played for Phil [Jackson] and he doesn’t like to double team and you had to double Hakeem [Olajuwon] or he would have had 50 on you,” Horry said. “So I think we would have won. It would have been a good game. … I know everybody thinks that Michael Jordan is the greatest to ever play the game, but Dream [Olajuwon] isn’t too shabby.”
According to Horry, Olajuwon isn’t the only one who would cause problems for Chicago. He believes Houston guard Vernon Maxwell would’ve shut down Jordan defensively.
“Dream [Olajuwon] must go against who they had at center and Mike [Jordan] would have had to go against Vernon Maxwell, who is a good defender,” Horry said. “So I think in that sense, we would have had the edge.”
These remarks come after Kenny “The Jet” Smith’s comments last year on the Scoop B Radio podcast, when he said the same 1993-95 Rockets team would’ve thwarted the Bulls even if Chicago had their fully stacked, championship-winning group.
“We [the Rockets] would’ve beat the Bulls without a question, they didn’t match up well with us and during those years that they were actually winning championships, which wasn’t the playoffs. We were 8-2 against them during those years. We matched up well with them. We wouldn’t have been scared,” Smith said.
On ESPN’s The Jump, Scottie Pippen fired back at Smith’s comments.
“He forgot what my role was: I cut the head off of snakes; and I’m calling him the snake of that team," Pippen said about Smith.
Even though it wasn’t the same team, the Bulls played well without Jordan in the 1993-94 season and went 55-27. They ended up losing to the New York Knicks in the second round of the playoffs.
But Chicago needed their best player back during the 1994-95 regular season. The Bulls were barely a .500 team when Jordan announced his return to basketball on March 18, 1995. He led his squad to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but lost to the Orlando Magic.
“And actually everyone forgets he was playing the second year, he was wearing number 45 and the team they lost to the Orlando Magic, we swept them,” Smith said about the time the Rockets overcame the same Orlando team that beat the Bulls in the 1995 playoffs. ”We were that much better than them that year, they lost to them.”
Chicago’s star-studded basketball franchise would still go on to three-peat once again from 1996-98, completing a historic feat.
But with Jordan off the Bulls for the entire 1993-94 season and rejoining the franchise towards the end of 1995, one can only guess who would’ve won the Chicago-Houston matchup if the NBA great never left basketball and got his team to the Finals both years.