A few thoughts on Scottie Pippen

In case you haven’t heard, Scottie Pippen — along with Karl Malone, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Bob Hurley Sr., Cynthia Cooper, Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson, and Maciel “Ubiratan” Pereira as well as the 1960 and 1992 U.S. Olympic teams — was selected for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s class of 2010.

Pippen’s selection wasn’t simply well-deserved, it was a no-brainer. After all, Scottie was the second-best player on six NBA championship teams over an eight-year period. And the best player on those teams happened to be the greatest ever. So although Pippen was and probably always will be best-known for playing second fiddle to Michael Jordan…that was still a pretty mean fiddle.

On the subject, it’s fitting that Pippen will become a Hall of Famer exactly one year after Jordan. Scottie spent most of his career as the Robin to Michael’s Batman. Not by choice. That was decided by fate, not to mention fans and a press corps that never fully appreciated what Pippen meant to the Chicago Bulls.

For sure, MJ was the foundation on which those six titles were built. But Scottie was like championship spackle. He filled all the holes. Scoring, rebounding, passing and especially defense. Pippen spent a full decade on the NBA All-Defensive First or Second Teams. But those are just numbers. The reality is, he was without question one of the best defensive players of his generation and probably of all-time.

Guarding Kevin McHale — who himself spent 12 seasons as Larry Bird’s second-in-command — was once described by then-Piston John Salley as “being in the man’s [torture] chamber.” Well, being defended by Scottie was like being in Pippen’s chamber. Just ask Magic Johnson, who got hounded almost to the point of distraction by Pippen in the 1991 NBA Finals. You could also ask Mark Jackson, who received 94 feet of pain from Scottie in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. When Pippen guarded you, it was like being locked in shackles, covered in crawling insects, and then set on fire.

In a word: Terrible.

Whenever Scottie comes up during conversation with my basketball buddies, I almost always harken back to one of my all-time favorite Chicago teams: The Pippen-led 1993-94 squad. That was the first year of Jordan’s first retirement, when Michael left the Bulls to play baseball (and, really, to escape the constant grind of pursuing NBA championships). Finally, Scottie got a chance to be the Batman.

All Pippen did was set career-highs in scoring (22.0 PPG), rebounding (8.7) and steals (2.9), not to mention Player Efficiency Rating (23.2). He also finished third (behind Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson) in MVP voting. But discussing stats, as impressive as they may seem, kind of undersells Pippen. He was a leader. He pumped up his teammates. Jordan led mostly by example and fear. But Bulls players, when they needed a pep talk or a little inspiration, went to Scottie. No less an expert than Phil Jackson said so.

At any rate, Scottie pushed the 1993-94 Bulls — who were forced to plug Pete Myers into the gaping hole left by Jordan — to 55 wins. That was only two fewer wins than the 1992-93 team, which featured an in-his-prime MJ and won a third straight championship. Think about that. The Bulls replaced Jordan with freaking Pete Myers and only dropped two more games. Who would have thought that was even possible?

Those 55 wins weren’t all Scottie. Due credit must be given to then-coach Phil Jackson and his amazing system, not to mention other players (most notably Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong and Toni Kukoc) picking up their games. But Pippen was the foundation of that team, and he proved more than up to the task.

That squad could have won the title. I’m being completely serious. It could have happened. As it was, the 1993-94 Bulls lost a hard-fought seven-game series to the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. (Don’t even get me started about the officiating in that series, especially Game 5. I’m serious. Don’t get me started.) The Knicks went on lose their own hard-fought seven game series to the Houston Rockets in the 1994 Finals — thanks in no small part to an epic 2-for-18 shooting meltdown by John Starks — so it’s not a huge stretch to imagine the Bulls making it that far and prevailing.

Maybe they would have lost to the Rockets too. After all, Olajuwon destroyed Patrick Ewing in those Finals. What do you suppose he would have done to Chicago’s three-headed center monster of Bill Cartwright, Bill Wennington and Luc Longley? We’ll never know, but I’m guessing it would have been ugly.

That said, the 1993-94 Rockets didn’t have anybody who was going to stop Scottie Pippen. So…who knows? In the final analysis, the 1993-94 Bulls stand as a glowing example that Jordan — as great as he was — didn’t do it alone. A lot of people tend to overlook it, but Scottie almost led the Bulls to their fourth straight title without MJ. So, like I said, Pippen’s spot in the Hall of Fame is a no-brainer.

At any rate, I’m happy for Pip. He’s certainly earned a time to shine.

Note: Okay, it’s hard to bring up the 1993-94 Bulls and their playoff series against the Knicks without mentioning how Scottie refused to play the final 1.8 seconds of Game 3 because Jackson didn’t write up the game-winning play for him. That incident capped off a season in which Pippen spent way too much time complaining about his salary and even made a rude hand gesture to Bulls fans for booing him. (Pip then compounded that last faux pas by claiming fans were booing him because he was black.)

Living in Jordan’s shadow — and being underpaid in part because of that and in part because Jerry Reinsdorf is frighteningly cheap — bothered Pippen a lot. And all too often his mini-rebellions made him look like a bratty malcontent. Which, at times, he was. But, in my opinion, those things shouldn’t diminish his contributions to the Bulls. After all, Jordan punched out Steve Kerr in practice. Oh, MJ also punched out Will Perdue. Since indicents like that haven’t hurt Michael’s legacy, then Pippen’s occasional outburts shouldn’t tarnish his.

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30 Responses to A few thoughts on Scottie Pippen

  1. vaimail@gmail.com'
    Vai April 6, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    really nice article and Scottie is one of my favorite players. I also agree that he is a bit underrated. Great to have him in HOF!

  2. kingdave31@gmail.com'
    Future Guy April 6, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    Great post! I’ve been a Bulls fan since before the first championship, when they were still getting beat by the Pistons, and I have to say that I never rooted harder for any team than the 93-94 squad. If not for Hue Hollins myopic officiating, they would have 4-peated. Hell, Scottie was so confident he wrote it on his shoes.

  3. contrerasadvocates@yahoo.com'
    Savage April 6, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with Matt more. That was a great read thanks! Pippen was and still is one of my favorite players of all time. He could play point guard bring the ball up and run the offense. He could also defend guards and/or forwards as well as any player I have seen. Just talking about this makes me want to go back and watch some of those classic championship runs. Thanks again Matt that was a great read.

  4. sean April 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    “So although Pippen was and probably always will be best-known for playing second fiddle to Michael Jordan…that was still a pretty mean fiddle.”

    I love that. Great post, and props to Scottie.

  5. Hersey April 6, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    I had Pippen’s original Dream Team jersey back in the day. Wanted him in Phoenix bad. That was a popular trade rumor.

  6. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. April 6, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    Excellent post, Matt. Here’s a good video that focuses on Pippen’s defense:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9vFHYVXtRk

  7. Axel F April 6, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    I would just like to point out that although they won 55 games, when Jordan returned for good they set the record for wins in a season. I’m not trying to diminish Pip though, he deserves it and is possibly my favorite SF. After Larry Bird of course.
    I recommend any of these two videos for amazing defense.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9vFHYVXtRk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1YchiFv-5M

  8. arjoseph_2000@yahoo.com'
    Andy April 6, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    It’s significant that there have been just as many “next Scottie Pippen”s or “Pippen clone”s through the years as there have been “next Jordan”s. And every candidate has paled, just like every proposed heir to Jordan’s mantle. Pippen is an archetype and in his own category at the same time. The only person I can think of who has the passing, shooting, defense, ball-handling, and transition game/potential is LeBron (who, incidentally, is also the closest thing to the “next Jordan” we’ve ever seen).

  9. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale April 6, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    “I would just like to point out that although they won 55 games, when Jordan returned for good they set the record for wins in a season.”

    Although your point is well taken, it’s worth noting that 1995-96 was an expansion season, with the 15-win Vancouver Grizzlies and 21-win Toronto Raptors dotting the NBA landscape. That was an extra six wins for the Bulls. Also, the addition of Dennis Rodman was pretty key to the Bulls’ stampede to 72 wins.

  10. dakota April 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    Don’t forget, we lost to the Raptors during the 72 win season, 109-108.

  11. bushytopthegodsupreme@gmail.com'
    bushytop April 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    scottie pippen is seriously underrated and underappreciated. and you’re right about the 1993-94 season. dude led the bulls in every major statistical category and he looked gd graceful doing it. but i have one thing i have to mention — mj didn’t only get replaced by pete meyers, the addition of toni kukoc certainly helped the bulls reach 55 wins. i mean “crumbs” said he was the euro magic.

  12. zhutsell@gmail.com'
    z-mo April 6, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    Not to mention Pippen was the leader of a 2000 Trail Blazers squad that would’ve taken the championship if not for one of the worst collapses in sports history during game 7 to the Lakers. Epic fails aside, Pippen deserves his place in history.

  13. chhart@hotmail.com'
    chris h April 6, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    That 93-94 season was pretty much my favorite after the first title. If you havent read Melissa Isaacsons book covering it, it is pretty entertaining.

    http://www.amazon.com/Transition-Game-Inside-Chicago-Bulls/dp/157167005X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

  14. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath April 7, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    wow. thanks for the vids. awesome to relive those moments. honestly, i haven’t been able to think about that series with the knicks for more than a moment or two. instant pain. i think it is time to find a youtube recap and relish more in what he did (and almost did). i had hoped that thabo would follow in his footsteps and i still root for him to become that multi-faceted, lock-down spackle player. (hell, maybe jeff green is more likely to become that guy?)

    great stuff. the fiddle line had me pumping my fist. good luck tonight!

  15. chad April 7, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    too bad joe johnson sitting out, guess we wont catch charlotte, go cleveland today.

  16. jm@yahoo.com'
    john marzan April 7, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    the guy can’t shoot. especially in the playoffs where he’ll go 4/15 and be not clutch. thank god the bulls have michael jordan.

  17. chad April 7, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    no excuse for losing to a bogutless bucks team and being outscored 28-9 in the 2nd quarter digging ourselves too big a hole. our chance to catch toronto blown. time for us to have to face cleveland. doesn’t look good.

  18. chad April 7, 2010 at 3:31 am #

    this game is clear evidence to show salmons is missed, he can score like gordon and defend better. rose is not enough, when hinrich and deng are having bad shooting games we have no one who can score. atleast we didn’t give up a lot of points, guess 80 is too much to ask for.

  19. powers88@vt.edu'
    Bobby April 7, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    I have officially joined the fire Del Negro bandwagon. Does he even know how to play? I mean I know he did play but did he forget how? You are playing a team without shot-blockers and in the fourth quarter you are in the bonus for somewhere between 5 and 7 minutes. In what world does that mean “let’s fire off jumpshots until the rim falls off?” The game was close and we should have been driving to the hole the entire time. Another problem. In this world that exists only in Vinny’s head, he seems to believe that no matter how many times you get screwed because you switched on the pick and roll, you just stick with it. At some point he believes that it will just start working. He also apparently coaches to go under screens even if that leaves players like Salmons and Ridnour wide open for threes all night long. I realize that I just said that he coaches and I apologize because he doesn’t really coach as much as he just allows people to do whatever the hell they want which is a f*****g horrible strategy, obviously. I liked Salmons and he’s a good player but he was their only player in this game for the whole game. You cannot get torched by one ok player when you are fighting for a playoff spot. Byron Scott if you’re still out there somewhere, please, for the love of god, kick this dumbass out and help us.

  20. gonzoglg@yahoo.com'
    George April 7, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    My opinion on Scottie Pippen is that he has redefined the small forward position. Before Scottie small forwards came in one of two ways. They were either small post-up guys or they were big slow guard/wing type players (think James Worthy vs. Dominic Wilkins.) Scottie Pippen has set the standard for the ultimate combination of skills and attibutes for anyone who has played or will play the small forward position. Size-check, speed-check, ball handling skills-check, open court offense-check, long range shooting-check, post/half court offense-check, rebounding-check, passing-check, defense-check check and check. I challenge anyone to find a small forward with a more complete set of skills.

    He played with chronic back pain, which is why he signed the ill fated contract extension which made him one of the most underpaid players in the league.

    His different hair will go down in infamy, the table top, corn-rows(thankfully short lived,) brought back the puffy fro.

    He also wore the ugliest shoes to be worn by an all-star game mvp. (Heh)

  21. handkuft@yahoo.com'
    GotNext April 7, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    We’ll be ok if Lebron doesn’t play. If I was Cleavland I would just forfeit the rest of the games, or sign a bunch of d leaguers. And yes pip was the man, HOF no brainer. Dude was a defensive ace, and the bulls would’ve won 8 chips in a row if Micheal didn’t have gambling problem…err went play baseball…

  22. wise@yahoo.com'
    WsieGuy April 7, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Pippen was underpaid because he decided to sign long-term contracts because he wanted security, not because Reinsdorf was cheap. If he had the balls to let a contract expire he would have gotten big bucks from Reinsdorf. Being “underpaid” was his choice. Her just regretted his decision after it was too late.

  23. chicondo@hotmail.com'
    luvabullnj April 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Great tribute to Scottie. He deserved more fame and fortune than he got being under the shadow of MJ. Loved the Statue of Liberty dunks. Bulls fans and real basketball fans appreciate his greatness and know he is well deserving.

  24. ofycial2000@yahoo.com'
    ofycial April 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    Scottie HOF first ballot is a no brainer. BUT PEOPLE DID WE 4-GET TO MENTION THAT SCOTTIE PIPPEN HAD THE GREATEST IN YOUR FACE DUNK OF ALL TIME. EVEN BETTER THAN JORDAN. When Scottie dunked in Patrick Ewing’s face and pushed him to the ground like a b!#$% and stood over him like his daddy. Til this day I haven’t seen a in your face dunk more vicsious than that one. I shed a tear when I watch that on youtube. Remember Mike needed Scottie to win all those rings just like Scottie needed Mike. Their combo is a metaphor today for what a team needs to win a ring. When they talk about Wade, Lebron, Kobe, and Carmelo it is said that they need a Scottie to win a ring. Last season Kobe got his Scottie in Pau and what a shock he won a ring.

  25. greg@amanismith.com'
    Gregory J Amani Smith April 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    You’re forgetting an important stat of Pippen’s ’94-’95 season. It was the 2nd time in history a player lead his team in the 5 major categories (his steal total was best in the league that year as well). 1st was Dave Cowens (Celtics ’77-’78)and only 2 times after Kevin Garnett (T-Wolves ’02-’03) and LeBron James (Cavs ’08-’09).

  26. Alex_Hurwitz@yahoo.com'
    AH April 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    As a non-Bulls fan I can tell you why Pippen isn’t so adored and ‘appreciated’ outside of Chicago – because he WAS a “bratty malcontent”, as you said, and because he needed someone better on the team to help him win a ring.

    Maybe he could have won a ring without #23, but only hometown fans give props for “could have’s”. Don’t expect outsiders to give credit for something that never happened.

    By the way, in the ’93-’94 season Pippen was in his prime, he had battle-tested teammates, the same coach and the same system…and he was bratty as hell and didn’t even reach the Finals. Facts are facts. The 1.8 second incident just solidified what people outside of Chicago already thought; he’s a selfish prick.

    He deserves to be in the HOF but don’t expect non-Bulls fans to adore him as you do.

  27. Shun Fujumuar April 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    He was always very talented on the court. Sadly class-less off the court, him and Stacey King attempted to hook-up with all of Cook and Lake county. His shoe line kinda sucked his NIKE Flights were really generic. People also forget that Toni Kukoc was a Croatian-Rookie Magic Johnson. 6 feet 11 inches and could play all 5 positions and could hit the 3 with the best of them. Pippen always had talent around him and was coached by the best.

  28. Adrian.E.Guzman@citi.com'
    Adrian April 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    Very good read. It takes two to tango and Scottie was definitley the cornerstone of a legacy. As a die hard Bulls fan it gives me pride to see Scottie inducted, just as it did when MJ got inducted. Those were the golden days, summer bar be ques in June watching the finals almost become a yearly routine! That is until some guy named Krause decided to pull the plug at least two years prematurely…blah.

  29. DipenPatel@Chicagobreakingsports.com'
    BULL4EVER April 9, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    Those 6 NBA titles would never have taken place if Jordan never had Pippen alongside him, man let me tell you.Scottie has always been a no-doubter Hall of Famer/Hall of Gamer, either way you pronounce it.He has always been the most underrated and underappreciated Bull.GO PIPPEN.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Scottie Pippen’s torture chamber » By The Horns - August 12, 2010

    [...] provided some potent offense, we all know his surest skill was his defense. A few months ago, I described being defended by Pippen as being caught in his torture chamber. Well, watch this video and welcome [...]

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