Why Scottie Pippen Never Joined the Lakers, According to Jerry West

The suggestion the Los Angeles Lakers could have partnered Scottie Pippen with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal has long been a source of debate among NBA fans. How good could the Lakers have been had Pippen been reunited with Phil Jackson, with whom he had won six NBA titles during their spell with the Chicago Bulls?

As detailed in The Last Dance, ESPN's 10-part documentary chronicling Michael Jordan's final season with the Bulls, Jackson left Chicago after completing a second three-peat in 1998 and was soon followed out of the door by Jordan, who retired for a second time, and Pippen, who was traded to the Houston Rockets.

Pippen's spell in Houston alongside Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon lasted just one season, before he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.

The move to Oregon, however, may have never come to pass had Pippen got his way. In 1999, The Washington Post's Landon Hall suggested the six-time NBA champion wanted to reunite with Jackson, who had taken over as Lakers coach after a one-year sabbatical following his departure from Chicago.

Hall even hinted that the Blazers could acquire Pippen from the Rockets, before flipping him to the Lakers in exchange for Glen Rice, Robert Horry and Travis Knight. The trade never eventually materialized after the Lakers reportedly decided against trading the trio.

According to former Lakers general manager Jerry West, however, the franchise never entertained the thought of adding Pippen to their ranks.

"There wasn't one conversation in my mind about him," West told Bill Oram and Jason Quick of The Athletic.

"I've always admired Scottie Pippen as a player. But listen, we did fine. OK? We did fine."

West's assertion that the Lakers "did fine" is a major understatement. Spearheaded by O'Neal and Bryant, the Lakers won three consecutive titles between 2000 and 2002 and reached a fourth NBA Finals in five seasons in 2004, losing 4-1 to the Detroit Pistons.

The Trail Blazers were arguably the hardest obstacle the Lakers overcame en route to their first title under Jackson in 2000. The two teams met in the Western Conference Finals, with the Lakers taking a 3-1 lead only to allow Portland back into the series as the Trail Blazers won Game 5 and 6 to force the series to a decider in Los Angeles.

Ahead by 13 points after three quarters in Game 7, Portland was 15 points clear of the Lakers with just 10 minutes left in the final period, before suffering one of the most iconic meltdowns in playoffs history. The Trail Blazers conspired to miss 13 consecutive shots and were outscored 31-13 by the Lakers, who roared back into the game and eventually won 89-84 to book their place in the NBA Finals.

Had the Trail Blazers held on, the Shaq-Kobe era may have never got off the ground the way it did. Pippen and Portland would meet the Lakers in the playoffs again in the next two seasons, only to be swept in the first round on both occasions.

The former Central Arkansas alumnus eventually ended up working with Jackson in Los Angeles as he served as assistant to his former coach during training camp.

That, however, was as far as he would come to donning the famous purple and gold jersey.

Scottie Pippen
Former NBA player Scottie Pippen speaks during a press conference as part of Heat Fest at Citibanamex Center on September 1, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. Carlos Tischler/Getty