Michael Jordan threatened to retire when Chicago Bulls tried to trade Scottie Pippen for Tracy McGrady

Brad Sullivan
3 Min Read
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In a new podcast, Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady indicated that an apparent Chicago Bulls effort to trade Scottie Pippen for his draft rights was stopped by Michael Jordan’s threat to retire.

McGrady appeared on “Knuckleheads” and indicated (at the 44:17 mark) that then-Bulls general manager Jerry Krause’s trade effort during the 1997 NBA Draft was stopped by Jordan’s jarring threat.

“Draft night, I almost got traded for Scottie,” McGrady said. “The night before the draft, Jerry Krause called my agent, got me up 12 o’clock at night, had me got to a secret location to take a physical. It was about to go down, but MJ (Jordan) made the calls, ‘Yo, if y’all do that, I’m retiring.’ So he stopped that real quick.”

McGrady ended up getting drafted by the Toronto Raptors with the ninth overall pick of that 1997 draft. That started an outstanding 16-year NBA career for him that eventually culminated with a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

At the time of the proposed deal, Jordan, Pippen and the Bulls had just won their second league title in a row and fifth in seven years. That historic run had largely been fueled by the chemistry of Jordan and Pippen, a tandem that Jordan clearly wasn’t eager to break up.

One year later, Jordan did retire from the Bulls for a second time and then returned in 2001 to play two seasons with the Washington Wizards.

While McGrady more than lived up to his draft night promise, how well he could have meshed with Jordan during his rookie year is uncertain. Given Jordan’s apparent disdain for the proposed deal, he wasn’t eager to help McGrady’s development in the midst of another championship hunt.

The accuracy of McGrady’s anecdote may be hard to pin down, since comments from Jordan about his playing days have been rare. In addition, Krause passed away in 2017.

Yet, McGrady’s tale is another instance where Jordan’s power during his playing days was evident.

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Brad has written on a variety of both NBA and NFL topics and has worked previously as a sports information director at the collegiate level. A lifetime fan of sports, he's witnessed countless great moments in different sports and understands that stories can be compelling from both the perspective of winners and losers. As a frustrated fan of Cleveland sports, he experienced something unprecedented when the Cavaliers won the city's first championship in 52 years.