Elie: We Wanted Michael Jordan, Bulls In 1995

The Rockets wanted to play Jordan and the Bulls in 1995, Mario Elie says; instead, they swept the Magic in the NBA Finals

The DA Show
July 29, 2019 - 4:17 pm

The Houston Rockets won back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, but they don’t always get the respect they deserve. They get the “Yeah, but” treatment because Michael Jordan had retired from the NBA to pursue baseball.

That has to bother the Rockets, no?

“Yes, it sure does bother me,” three-time NBA champion Mario Elie said on The DA Show. “When Michael Jordan came back that second year and had 55 in the Garden, nobody wasn’t saying nothing about that. You had a good Orlando team that just happened to beat them. Michael Jordan was playing that second year, so I don’t want to hear those excuses.”

Indeed, Jordan’s Bulls lost to the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals in six games in 1995. The Magic then beat the Pacers in seven games before getting swept by the Rockets in the NBA Finals.

Would the Rockets have beaten Jordan and the Bulls? It’s certainly possible.

“Michael Jordan said, ‘I’m glad these guys can’t come out of the West because we have no matchup for 34,’” Elie said, referring to Hakeem Olajuwon. “I think both of those guys were at the top of their game – Jordan and Olajuwon. Both of those guys were great players. You listen to Jordan. ‘Jordan, what’s your top starting five?’ The first guy he picks is Olajuwon. 

“To me, Jordan is the best ever,” Elie continued. “But that No. 34 was no slouch, either. I felt with our bigs, with no matchup with Olajuwon, you had myself, you had Vernon (Maxwell) – we had guys maybe that’s not going to stop Michael Jordan, but that could make him work and earn his 30.”

Jordan had some epic battles with Maxwell through the years.

“Him and Vernon used to go at it,” Elie said. “That’s the one guy Michael Jordan said, ‘Man, this dude’s a competitor.’ I was sort of the same type competitor like Vernon. Jordan is going to score. He’s great. We know that. But at least if myself and Vernon were on him, he was going to have to work for every point.”

Elie added that Robert Horry, who was 6-10, would have matched up well with Scottie Pippen. The Rockets – with Clyde Drexler, Otis Thorpe, Kenny Smith, and Sam Cassel – also had great depth.

“I was hoping we would get a chance to play against Michael, but we didn’t get a chance to,” Elie said. “But we’re the champions. We won back-to-back championships. People can’t take that away from us.”