- Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan won six championships together in the 1990s
- But there has been tension over Pippen’s portrayal by Jordan in ‘The Last Dance’
- They had been close over the years but their friendship may now be in jeopardy
There appears to be a split between Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan after The Last Dance
The pair played together for the Chicago Bulls and were tremendously successful together
Jordan embracing Pippen while watching a Chicago Bulls game together in 2011
Pippen propping up Jordan during the infamous ‘Flu Game’ of the NBA Finals in 1997
Pippen and Jordan with their Bulls team-mates Dennis Rodman (left), Ron Harper (second right) and Toni Kukoc (right) during their second three-peat together
Pippen and Jordan also played together in the ‘Dream Team’ in 1992 and won Olympic gold
It is not clear how close Jordan and Pippen have been since they retired from the game
Jordan, Harper and Pippen have a conversation on the court during a time-out in 1996
Rodman, Jordan, Pippen, Harper and head coach Phil Jackson (left to right) hold their trophies
As far as Michael Jordan is concerned, it’s very simple. Without Scottie Pippen, no one would be that bothered about being like Mike.
Popular Netflix series ‘The Last Dance’ has hit the headlines over the last month with many different narratives coming to the fore. The first focus, Jordan aside, was on Pippen, and how crucial he was to the team at large.
Pippen was there for all six of Jordan’s championships. When it came to it, when his tendon tore, Pippen played through in 1997 to get the Chicago Bulls over the line.
Jordan was frequently complimentary about Pippen in the documentary: ‘He helped me so much in the way I approached the game, in the way I played the game.
‘Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen.
‘I didn’t win without Pippen. And that’s why I consider him my best team-mate of all time.’
Yet there seems to now be an issue between the pair. Jordan was involved in the production of the documentary and episode two seems to be a sticking point.
In that, Pippen basically admitted he had postponed a surgery after the season had ended to get back at general manager Jerry Krause, amid their feud over his low wages. ‘I decided to have surgery late, because I was like, “You know what? I’m not going to fuck my summer up trying to rehab for the season,”‘ he said.
It meant he missed the start of the 1997-98 season and the Bulls suffered. They still had Jordan but did not have his most important team-mate.
Jordan responded to that. He said: ‘Scottie was wrong in that scenario.
‘He could’ve gotten surgery done as soon as the season was over… now I got to start the season knowing Scottie wasn’t going to be around, but we have to find a way to win.
‘I felt like Scottie was being selfish,’ Jordan added in the last few minutes of episode two.
This outlook has, reportedly, left Pippen ‘so angry’ at Jordan. David Kaplan of ESPN 1000 in Chicago went on to say he was ‘beyond livid’ at his former team-mate.
That latest news could represent a shattering of quite a strong relationship, and one in which the pair clearly had serious mutual respect for each other.
Jordan’s son, Marcus, spoke on the Talking Bulls podcast after that emerged and was keen to stress how close his dad and Pippen had been.
He said: ‘The first thing that comes to my mind, is best friend and best team-mate, right hand man… there’s too many words for Scottie.
‘I’ve seen Scottie at the house plenty of times, I didn’t know that article was circulating. But as my dad says, “There is no Michael Jordan without Scottie Pippin”.
‘I can’t speak for their relationship and I don’t want to put words in my dad’s mouth or anything like that, but Scottie’s like an uncle to me.
‘Whenever I see him, I definitely say, “What’s up?” to him and pick his brains at certain times with different things.’
In recent years, there has been evidence that Pippen and Jordan’s friendship had extended beyond the court and their playing days together. While Jordan does not use social media, his old team-mate does and has often been complimentary of Jordan on his public profiles.
Pippen was posting tributes to Jordan on his Instagram account as recently as February, posting a photo of the pair on the page and writing: ‘Happy birthday to my brother’.
The pair were also photographed together at court-side taking in a Chicago Bulls game back in 2011. Both were smiling. At one stage, Jordan even turned and embraced his old friend.
When Pippen was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 2010, there was Jordan too. In fact, he spoke about his one-time colleague and paid tribute to him.
During their playing careers, it must be said that Jordan was a hard man to deal with. There has been criticism of the pressure he put his team-mates under.
Yet in Pippen, he had another ultra-talented player who was able to join him as a leader within the Bulls squad.
In fact, there is a sense that they worked well as a fire-and-ice pairing that kept everyone in check.
‘He was a perfect complement to Michael,’ former Bull Steve Kerr recently said on the Lowe Post podcast.
‘Michael was the hard-ass. You had to be ready every day for his criticism. Scottie would put his arm around you and make sure you were OK. He is a kind soul.’
Toni Kukoc, who Jordan and Pippen targeted when they were part of the ‘Dream Team’ at the 1992 Olympics, saw his role in the dressing room as crucial too.
‘I love Scottie,’ Kukoc said. ‘The guy that helped me the most those first two years was Scottie. He is so easy to play with.
‘I never really felt [the criticism] was mean. I felt like he was trying to point me in the right direction.’
Now Pippen will have to decide whether Jordan’s criticism should be taken in the same way.
Nostalgia, in Greek, is defined as ‘the pain from an old wound’. It would be a shame if The Last Dance’s nostalgic turn leaves a permanent scar.