Ron Harper explains why playing with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen was different from playing with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant
2024/04/02

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Those who knew Ron Harper are well aware that he won NBA championships alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago and also with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. As far as success goes, Harper couldn't tell the difference between the two sets of dynamic NBA duos, but he could still remember how he played a different role for them during those championship runs.

"With Scottie and MJ, it was more of guys of my size, same size, so we could do the same thing. We were good offensive players but [with] great defense and passing too… With Shaq and Kobe, [I was] trying to teach them how to be a part of a basketball team, you know [like], 'You two, gonna need this team.

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[But] You two are the best players on this team," Harper told NBA Europe in 2021.

Phil was the common denominator

Without further analysis, anybody could tell the many differences between the 90s Bulls and the 2000s Lakers. For one, Jordan and Shaq weren't the same type of leader, while Pippen and Bryant played the game differently as second-fiddle stars for their respective teams.

According to Harper, there was a similarity between the two squads, but it wasn't visible from the outside. Harp said that the "main" and only thing the Bulls and Lakers had in common was that they were both run by Phil Jackson, who instilled the same approach and mentality to his players.

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"But the main thing was we knew what kind of entity we had as a basketball team, but we had to get everyone to be into what Coach Phil [Jackson] was trying to do as a coach," Harper added. "And just to move guys to a space where they was comfortable."

Harp made it all possible too

As for Harper, he played almost the same role during his stint with the Bulls and the Lakers. Some saw him as a facilitator, while others commended his two-way game. However, that wasn't how his fellow former Bull and Laker Dennis Rodman remembers him.

For Rodman, Harp was way more than just a role player, but people had no idea about how tremendously good he was prior to his major injury.

"The quiet assassin on that team was that one guy, Ron Harper. Nobody talks about him. He probably could've been the best player ever if he didn't have that knee injury. He was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan to me 'cause he was good," Rodman once said of Harper.

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