John MacBeth Paxson (born September 29, 1960) is an American basketball administrator and former player who has been Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association since 2009, after serving as team general manager from 2003 to 2009.
Paxson was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 19th overall pick of the 1983 NBA draft. In two seasons with the Spurs, he averaged 4.9 points per game and 2.9 assists. He then signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls, who teamed him in the backcourt with Michael Jordan. Paxson proved to be a valuable 3-point marksman and clutch shooter in the Bulls’ first 3 championships.
Paxson is best known for his championship-winning shot during Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals. The Bulls were down by two in the last seconds of Game 6 of the finals series held at the America West Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, before Paxson shot a wide-open three point shot with 3.9 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls a 99-98 lead and their third consecutive NBA title. In his NBA career, he started 369 games, and averaged 7.2 points and 3.6 assists per game.
After Paxson’s retirement, Bulls head coach Phil Jackson hired him as an assistant coach for the 1995–96 season. The Bulls won the title that year, fueled by Michael Jordan’s return and the addition of another eventual Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman. Paxson resigned shortly after the season to join Neil Funk on radio broadcasts, saying “I knew full well the time commitment coaching takes. But after that year I missed my wife and kids so much. I realized that if I didn’t prioritize, I’d miss everything that they were doing.” When Jordan joined the Washington Wizards, he asked Paxson to consider the head coaching job, but Paxson declined for the same reasons.
In April 2003, Paxson left his broadcasting position to become Vice-President of Basketball Relations for the Bulls after the resignation of longtime Bulls GM Jerry Krause.
After a promising conclusion to the 2002–03 NBA season, Paxson pledged that the team would make the playoffs. He made headlines by signing former icon Scottie Pippen after years of bad relations between the franchise and the stars of their championship years, Jordan and Pippen. However, the Bulls opened the 2003–04 NBA season in sloppy and uninspired form, and Paxson opted to begin reshaping the character of the team by trading leading scorer Jalen Rose for Antonio Davis and firing friend and former teammate coach Bill Cartwright, replacing him with Scott Skiles. These moves had virtually no impact at all, and the Bulls finished Paxson’s first season as GM with a 23-59 record, second-worst in the NBA.
After high expectations for the 2007–08 season the Bulls started 9-16 and were last in the Central division. He fired Scott Skiles on December 24, 2007. Saying “This was a difficult decision to make, but one that was necessary at this time. Scott helped us in many ways during his time with the Bulls; most importantly, he helped this franchise get back to respectability. I am appreciative of his hard work and the imprint that he left on our team.” Over the span of five seasons with the Bulls, Skiles compiled a record of 165-172 (.490), and guided the team to the playoffs three consecutive years before getting fired. Paxson promoted assistant coach Jim Boylan to interim head coach and the Bulls finished the year with a 33-49 record, missing the playoffs. Despite having only 1.7% probability, the Bulls won the NBA Draft Lottery and selected Chicago native Derrick Rose with the first pick in the 2008 NBA draft. In June 2008, Paxson named former NBA player and scout Vinny Del Negro head coach, but their relationship eventually went sour. Multiple reports surfaced that on March 30, 2010, Paxson and Del Negro got into a physical altercation over the minutes of Bulls center Joakim Noah, who was recovering from a foot injury. Paxson allegedly grabbed Del Negro by the tie and shoved him. Del Negro was fired a little over a month later.
On May 21, 2009, Gar Forman replaced Paxson as GM. Paxson’s current title is VP of Basketball Operations.
Career highlights and awards
3× NBA champion (1991–1993)
2× Consensus second-team All-American (1982, 1983)
As assistant coach:
NBA champion (1996)
Points 5,560 (7.2 ppg)
Rebounds 906 (1.2 rpg)
Assists 2,758 (3.6 apg)