With ESPN’s documentary debuting this weekend, The Last Dance will once again put the sports spotlight right on the Chicago Bulls, and their iconic franchise star, Michael Jordan. With no other sports to compete with the limelight ESPN moved up the documentary’s opening from June to April. So with the spotlight on MJ, lets take a few minutes to review the top 20 players Jordan played with over his NBA career.
The key phrasing here is the best PLAYERS over his NBA career. This isn’t including playing with James Worthy and Sam Perkins at UNC, or his teammates on the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. This doesn’t include when Steve Sax spent some rehab time with the Birmingham Barons when Jordan was on his hiatus.
Additionally this isn’t in reference to how the players performed exclusively with Jordan, this is how the players would stack up over the entirety of their NBA playing career. An example being, if we were to compile a similar list for King James, we’d see Shaquille O’Neal atop that list, even though Shaq Diesel was more like Shaq Electric Powered by then.
So lets break this down, counting down from 20 to the best player to spend time with his airness!
#20 Jared Jeffries Wing 2002-2003
Jeffries had an unremarkable NBA career after showing promise coming out of Indiana. He spent his rookie learning at the feet of the G.O.A.T. after being drafted by the Wizards
#19 Bryon Russell – Wing 2002-2003
The man most infamously known for being pushed off on during the “flu game” Russell teamed up with Jordan during a very um-memorable ’02-’03 season, also known as Jordan’s last season with the Wizards
#18 John Salley – Post 1996
The former Detroit Piston bad boy signed on with the Bulls on a couple of ten day contracts during the 72 win ’95-’96 season before inking a contract for the remainder of the season. Salley never averaged double digit scoring in his career, but was consistently a strong contributor to some strong post rotations.
#17 John Paxson – Guard 1985-1993
John Paxson was Steve Kerr before Steve Kerr was Steve Kerr. A steady spot up shooter was a key component of the first three-peat run.
#16 Steve Kerr – Guard 1995-1998
Kerr was a sharpshooter who averaged 45% from three for his career. Never a standout overall he was very good at his role.
#15 Orlando Woolridge – Wing 1984-1986
An underrated player, Woolridge didn’t even get to play second fiddle throughout his career, but the 6’9” forward averaged more than 20 points a game four times over his career. A career that saw him average 16 points a game
#14 Christian Laettner – Forward 2001-2003
A dream teamer, and one of the best collegiate players to step on the hardwood. Laettner averaged a shade under 13 points and 7 rebounds after being drafted after Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning. He teamed up with Jordan during his Wizards years.
#13 Bill Cartwright – Post 1988-1993
People who started watching the NBA remember Cartwright as a decent post piece for the Bulls. They forget that he came into the league and averaged more than 20 points for the Knicks his rookie and sophomore year. He missed the ’84-’85 season with a foot injury and was never exactly the same after. Still though, Cartwright had a career that many would love to have.
#12 Ron Harper – Wing 1994-1998
Brought in to try and fill the void left when Jordan went to play baseball, Harper’s stats took a significant hit during his post Clippers years, averaging double digits only once more during an abbreviated ’98-’99 season. With the Clippers and Cavs though he was a perennial 20+ points per game scorer.
#11 Larry Hughes – Guard 2002-2003
Hughes bounced between the 76ers and Warriors before landing with the Wizards as a 24 year old. He averaged just over 14 points a game as a player who continuously flashed potential, while also never quite fulfilling his promise. Always on the cusp of being a star, he could never get over that hump.
#10 Toni Kukoc – Wing 1994-1998
The Croatian Sensation felt like a disappointment. That had more to do with the level of advanced billing he had received when he was in Europe than his lack of production. Kukoc could rebound, pass, score, a triple threat player who walked away with 3 rings.
#9 Charles Oakley – Post 1985-1988 and 2002-2003
Best remembered for his bruising Knicks years as Patrick Ewing’s sidekick. Oakley averaged just shy of a double-double for his career. And while it sounds cliché to say, his impact extended beyond the stat sheet.
#8 Jerry Stackhouse – Wing 2002-2003
Stack had 5 seasons of averaging 20 points or more. His career spanned 18 years where he averaged just a smidge below 17 points a game. In his one season with Jordan he dropped 21.5 a game as the Tar Heel connection teamed up.
#7 Horace Grant – Forward 1987-1993
A solid hard hat and lunch pail guy, Grant was an underrated piece of the Bulls first three peat, and then an invaluable part of Shaq’s maturation in Orlando. Grant only averaged 11 and 8 for his career, but he was a consistently reliable 3rd piece of numerous championship caliber squads
#6 Artis Gilmore – Post 1987-1988
The 38 year old Gilmore played 24 games for the Bulls in ’87-’88. During that time he scored a whopping 4.2 points a game with Jordan. But again, that was as a 38 year old. Prior to that he averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds a game during a career that started in the ABA.
#5 Richard Hamilton – Wing 2001-2002
The lithe mid-range scorer is best known for what he did following his Wizards career as he won a ring with the Pistons. But he did spend a year with the Jordan led Wizards before being flipped for Stackhouse. Over his career Hamilton averaged 17 points a game over his career.
#4 Robert Parish – Post 1996-1997
The Chief is obviously best known for his years with the Celtics as a member of their big 3. The hall of fame center averaged 14.5 points and 9.1 rebounds a game over a career that saw him playing into his age 43 season, the only year he spent with Jordan.
#3 Dennis Rodman – Post 1995-1998
It killed me to put Rodman ahead of Parish, but it is what it is, Rodman was an OUTSTANDING defender for the Pistons, Bulls, and Spurs. All teams that won rings. The worm was the best rebounder the league has seen since Bill Russell, and nobody since has come close.
#2 George Gervin – Wing 1985-1986
The Iceman was a Bull for exactly one season. He averaged 16 points a game with Chicago during his swan song season. Over his career Gervin averaged more than 25 points a game, including 2 seasons where he averaged more than 30 points.
#1 Scottie Pippen Wing 1987-1998
Pippen sitting atop this list should come as a shock to exactly zero people. As good as Gervin was as a scorer, and he was VERY GOOD. Pippen was one of the best two way players to ever step on the floor. Career averages of 16 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists don’t tell the whole story. For a lot of the magnificent Bulls runs, Pippen would hold down the fort consistently in quarters one through three before Jordan took over in the fourth.
As you review the list you’ll see a few hall of famers, but aside from Rodman and Pippen they were all at the tail ends of their careers. Jordan playing with a Gervin, or Gilmore, or Parish in their primes would’ve been a sight to see.
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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