Pip has a new book out, called “Unguarded,” and for the past several months or so, he has been making headlines from time to time with his comments about Michael Jordan and the “Last Dance” Documentary/Propaganda series that aired on ESPN last spring right around the time Covid hit.
Now, whether you believe this is all just sour grapes from Pip or you believe he’s actually making some good points that nobody in the Nike-Jordan Media Industrial Complex ever brings up, this is still Scottie Pippen we’re talking about. You can’t just discount entirely what he has to say. He’s one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, and in the words of Michael Jordan himself, “There would not be a Michael Jordan without Scottie Pippen.”
But apparently Pippen is sick and tired of MJ getting all the credit and recognition, while people treat Pippen as an afterthought.
A week or so ago, Pippen said this:
Well, that much should be obvious to anyone with the least bit of honesty. It’s public knowledge that Jordan green-lit the documentary back in 2016, after LeBron completed his 3-1 comeback in the Finals against the Warriors and the “Is LeBron the GOAT?” chatter started to actually gain some steam.
But now Pippen is taking aim at one of the most well-known “MJ Moments” that further cemented Jordan’s legacy: the Flu Game in the 1997 NBA Finals.
Pippen isn’t promoting any conspiracy theories about MJ supposedly being hungover instead of sick, instead he’s just basically saying “Hey, I played with a herniated disc in my back in the 1998 Finals and nobody ever talks about that.”
Scottie Pippen continues to sound off on his time with the Bulls and his relationship dynamic with Michael Jordan.
To promote his newly-released memoir “Unguarded,” the Hall of Famer held a Town Hall on SiriusXM NBA Radio along with Frank Isola and he didn’t mince his words when comparing the back injury that he played through during the Bulls’ sixth title run in 1998 to Jordan’s famed “Flu Game” in 1997.
Pippen, who had well-documented back issues during the 1998 Finals, spoke on the severity of the injury, sharing that he would not have been able to play if the series had gone to seven games.
“I was done, pretty much. I mean — I struggled to pull it through in that game and I suffered from it, still suffering from it but I wouldn’t have played in a Game 7, I just wasn’t able to go,” Pippen told Isola.
Pippen continued, detailing how an early hit from Karl Malone in Game 6 caused discomfort that required constant attention and treatment for the entirety of the game, adding that “I was running back in the locker room [to get] cortisone, whatever kind of medication I could get in me — heat pack, whatever, to try to carry on.”
Isola then drew a parallel to Jordan’s ability to play through various ailments, namely Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, where Jordan played through the flu and was famously photographed leaning on Pippen in the game’s final moments.
Pippen was quick to speak his mind on that, asking Isola, “is it easier to play with a herniated disc or to play with the flu?”
After Isola chimed in, Pippen answered his own question, saying “I don’t see too many bad back games but I do see flu games. Flu. Come on.”
I get what Pippen is saying here, that’s it’s way harder to play with a herniated disc than it is the flu. And certainly the media’s constant fawning admiration over Jordan is a big part of why Jordan’s moments of overcoming adversity are way more publicized and celebrated than Pippen’s great moments.
If Pippen is trying to say the Bad Back Game should be equally as famous as the Flu Game, I just can’t get there. No disrespect to Pippen, but he just doesn’t have much of a case for that, if that is indeed what he’s trying to say.
The crew on First Things First had a good take on the matter, and I thought Nick Wright brought up some great points about how Scottie Pippen is “his own worst spokesman,” and that if he’s really trying to get people to appreciate his greatness more, then he shouldn’t be trying to compare the Flu Game to the Bad Back Game, he should be talking about other aspects of his legacy.
“Scottie, if you’re watching or listening, allow me to make the case.
Here is the case that Scottie Pippen should be making:
Fact: Michael Jordan played 5 seasons in his career without me as a teammate. He was under .500 in all five seasons–a combined record of 182-228.
Fact: Michael Jordan went to the playoffs 3 times without me, and was 1-9–not in series, but in playoff games before I walked through that door.
Fact: When we were going for our third championship, and faced the only adversity of that entire run, down 0-2 to the Knicks. Remember how Michael went out gambling the night before and got criticized for it? How did Michael do in that game 3 against the Knicks? Michael was 3 for 18. I, Scottie Pippen, was 10 of 12, with 29 points and saved our season.
Fact: The next year, when Michael left us, did we fall apart? Did we crumble? No. We went from 57 wins with Michael [in 1993] to 55 without him, and I was 3rd in the MVP race.
Fact: The next year after that, when MJ came back, when we got bounced in the playoffs, what happened the one time during our run when an Eastern Conference team beat us? Well, I, Scottie Pippen, played pretty damn well: 26-12-6 on better than 50% shooting. Michael meanwhile was 40%, with 24 points, and got ripped to lose the game, that was his 6th turnover.
Fact: After Michael retired again [in 1998], I helped lead a team [the 2000 Blazers] to Game 7 of the Conference Finals, could’ve won a Championship, if not for Shaq and Kobe’s iconic comeback.
That’s the Scottie Pippen case, Antoine. Not the one he’s making. There is a case to be made that Scottie Pippen, who never missed a playoff game, who was always available, who always took on the hardest defensive assignment, who, when Michael was there, never complained about getting shots or anything like that–that only happened after Michael. Who always did the dirty work, and was always the–not even a backup singer, he was the fringe dancer to Michael Jordan’s John Lennon as far as the media is concerned.
Does Scottie win 6 titles without Michael? No. But does Michael win 6 titles without Scottie? Absolutely not. That’s the case to be made.”
Kevin Wildes brings up that everyone roasted Pippen for sitting out the 1.8 seconds of that 1994 playoff game where Toni Kukoc hit the game-winning shot, but that nobody ever criticizes Jordan for literally leaving the game of basketball for nearly 2 years to follow his “passion for baseball.”
Wildes also brings up that everyone knows the mythology about how Jordan was supposedly “cut from his high school basketball team” while nobody ever brings up the fact that Scottie Pippen went from a walk-on at freaking Central Arkansas University all the way to the NBA Hall of Fame.
It must also be said that no, Jordan was not “cut from his high school basketball team.” The real story is that he didn’t make varsity after trying out as a sophomore. He was only 15 years old and hadn’t yet hit his growth spurt, so he was only 5′ 10″. People act like MJ wasn’t even allowed to play on his high school team at all because the coaches failed to see his greatness or something. No, absolutely not the case. He would not have been able to go to North Carolina if he wasn’t even good enough to make his high school basketball team. Come on now.
Anyway, I do think it’s true that Scottie Pippen deserves some more recognition and respect, and he has a great case to be made for himself, as Nick outlined.
I don’t know that he’s really doing himself many favors by taking what people are perceiving as shots at MJ, as it would be a sad thing if those two weren’t on good terms.
But also, in Pippen’s defense–at least with the Flu Game comments–I don’t think he was taking a direct shot at MJ as much as he was criticizing the media, which gives MJ all the credit and constantly forgets about Scottie Pippen. It was definitely an indirect shot at MJ, and Pippen has said some other things over the past year that could be construed as direct shots at MJ, but in his Flu Game comments specifically, I think he was more taking aim at the media than MJ.
Whether Pippen truly does have a bone to pick with both the media and MJ, or he’s just doing all this to generate controversy and promote his book, who knows. But something compelled Pippen to write the book in the first place, and I think it’s rooted in the fact that he feels he didn’t get a fair shake in “The Last Dance.”