When we think of the NBA in the 1990s, the first name that comes to mind is clearly Michael Jordan, the GOAT of basketball. Afterwards you may think of MVPs such as Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, John Stockton; Dream Team players. One day I was thinking about Patrick Ewing and how close he came to winning titles on the Knicks when the thought came to me: how did his career end? Well, I did some research, and it turns out that after leaving the Knicks in the year 2000, he played on the Seattle Supersonics for the 2000-2001 season and the Orlando Magic during the 2001-2002 season! This means that Ewing played alongside Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill (but Hill wasn’t really healthy). That was the inspiration for this post, so let’s look at how some All-Stars, MVPs, and Dream Team members of the 1990s ended their careers.
Disclaimer: This list will not include 90s stars whose end of careers are more publicized (such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Shaq, and Karl Malone)
After being drafted by the Houston Rockets 1st overall in the 1984 draft from the University of Houston, Olajuwon would spend almost all of his NBA career there. Changing his first name from Akeem to Hakeem, his time in Houston was not uneventful, as something you don’t hear so often is that Olajuwon feuded with the Patterson GMs who were in power while he was there. They knew how much Olajuwon wanted to stay in Houston after being drafted, and exploited this so they could underpay him. It led to a trade request that never went through, but all was well after two championships in a Jordan-less league, MVPs, and DPOYs. His last season as an All-Star would be the 1996-97 season. After Jordan retired, Houston formed a rarely talked about super team that in their primes would have rivaled the Showtime Lakers, 80s Celtics, Kobe and Shaq Lakers, and maybe even the Warriors. Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen both demanded trades to the Rockets, and soon enough, the Rockets had two MVPs and another All-Star on their roster. Unfortunately, this was the tail end of their careers, and they did not play well together, with Pippen barely getting the ball and the two others having their disagreements in the post. The 2000-01 season was Olajuwon’s last with the Rockets, and after refusing $13 million from the Rockets, he was traded to the Toronto Raptors for draft picks. He would play one season with the Raptors before retiring, and that season was even worse than his rookie year. Averaging a career low in minutes per game played, Olajuwon would average 7.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. He would quietly retire and spend his days in retirement practicing Islam and showing younger centers the footwork they needed to succeed in the NBA.
Unlike his Jazz pick-and-roll partner, Stockton’s end of career was much more uneventful than Karl Malone’s. In the same draft class as Olajuwon, Jordan, and Barkley, his rise to stardom would be much slower. Once Stockton was at his peak, he led the league in assists for nine straight years, as well as leading the league in steals for two years. After the 1998 season where he would lose to Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals, Stockton would continue playing, and at the age of 37, be named to the 2000 NBA All-Star game. He would quietly play for three more years, retiring at the age of 40 after the conclusion of the 2002-03 season. In his 19th and final season, he would average 10.8 points, 7.7 assists, and 1.7 steals. Something many don’t know about the Hall-of-Fame point guard is that he was the 1993 All-Star game MVP.
Perhaps one of the most underrated stars to ever play for the Golden State Warriors (as it’s easy to be overshadowed by the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, and the 2015-19 Warriors), the left handed Chris Mullin was a shooting guard/small forward that was drafted in 1985. He was an All-Star for five seasons in a row, leading the league in minutes played per game for two of them. One of those seasons was the 1991-92 season, which landed him a spot on the Dream Team. After the 1992-93 season, his last as an All-Star, Mullin would keep playing for the Warriors until 1997. He would then be traded to the Indiana Pacers for Erick Dampier and Duane Ferrell. In his first season with the Pacers, he would lead the league in free throw percentage (93.9%). His play would deteriorate after his mid-thirties, and he would average a career-low 5.1 points per game. Larry Bird, the coach of the Pacers at the time, gave Mullin’s minutes to Jalen Rose, and after the 2000 NBA Finals, he would sign with the Warriors so he could finish his career with them. At 37 years old, he retired after the 2000-01 season, his 16th. He would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Drafted a year before Michael Jordan by the Portland Trail Blazers, Clyde Austin Drexler was an incredible shooting guard. His rookie year was a rough transition, but afterwards, he found his groove in the game and averaged 27.2 points per game in his best season. In the 1992 NBA Finals, Drexler faced off against Jordan, and predictably, came up empty handed. After 1994, Drexler requested a trade and the Blazers shipped him to the Houston Rockets for a package most notably including Otis Thorpe. This reunited Drexler with college teammate Hakeem Olajuwon, and together they won the 1995 NBA championship. He would be selected as an All-Star for two more years in Houston, and in 1998, at the age of 35, Drexler retired from the game of basketball. He now serves as the commissioner of the Big 3v3 basketball league.
Scottie Pippen will forever be known as Michael Jordan’s sidekick, which is a shame. On the court, Pippen was incredible once he adjusted his game to the NBA. A six-time champion, seven-time All-Star, 10-time member of the All-Defensive team; Scottie was a no brainer to be on the Dream Team. After Michael Jordan retired, Pippen would win the 1994 All-Star Game MVP, and led the league in steals during the 1994-95 NBA season with 2.9 per game. Unfortunately, tensions with Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause would hasten his time with the franchise. Never being given the contract he deserved, after Jordan’s retirement, the dynasty Bulls were dismantled, which included trading Pippen to the Houston Rockets for Roy Rogers and a 2000 second round pick. On the Rockets, he teamed up with MVPs Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon. Unfortunately, Pippen would be made the third option behind the two stars and didn’t get the minutes he deserved. After one underwhelming season in Houston (where he averaged 14.5 points per game), Pippen demanded a trade. He wanted to play for the Lakers and his former coach Phil Jackson, but ended up getting traded to the Portland Trail Blazers for six different players! Pippen would play for the Blazers for four seasons, and during those four seasons, he averaged 11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Unfortunately, it seems all Pippen was remembered for in his time with the Blazers is Kobe Bryant driving past him and setting Shaq up with their most famous alley-oop ever. At the age of 37, for his last season in the NBA, Pippen would reunite with the Chicago Bulls, as Jerry Krause was no longer the GM, with it now being his friend from the Bulls Jim Paxson. After the 2003-04 season (which was the worst of his career), Pippen would retire from the NBA, and briefly play overseas as a 42 year old. Pippen’s career was a lot longer than people remember it to be, and it just goes to show how durable he was.
There are so many 1990s stars that I’ve decided to split this into a two-part series. Part 2 will be coming out in the following days, so make sure you follow the NBA Blog so you don’t miss that blog when it comes out. And as always, have an awesome day!