For some reason, some NBA fans have been arguing that without Pippen, Michael Jordan would not have any titles or they ask, “How many did Jordan win without Pippen?” Answer=zero. By relaying this thought, mostly Bryant fans attempt to minimize Jordan’s ability to win it all six times for six times with six Finals MVP’s. I contend that Pippen was incapable of bringing Jordan a ring but was capable of learning from the greatest master player ever and not necessarily by choice but by force. Jordan was the actual architect of Pippen's greatness.
As a rookie, Pippen wasn’t good. In fact, he barely displayed rebounding skills and an ability to steal the ball. Pippen became part of Chicago's young forward tandem with Horace Grant, although both came off the bench to back up Brad Sellers and Charles Oakley, respectively, during their rookie seasons. With fellow Bull Michael Jordan as a motivational and instructional mentor, Pippen refined his skills and slowly developed many new ones over the course of his career.
It is easy to see that Pippen had more physical fluidity than fellow rookie Grant and he played small forward, which is a more finesse position. But as a 22 year old rookie, Pippen did little to earn a starting spot against Sellers. As a rookie Pippen did play 79 games but he only shot 46 percent from the field and 17 percent from three range, not to mention a dismal 58 percent from the free throw line.
From shooting alone, for his career, Pippen was never able to save Jordan’s career. Pippen averaged 7.9 points as a rookie and while riding the bench for more than half the game (he averaged 21 minutes a game) he was witness to the single greatest player ever seen. Was he inspired? Yes. Was he on the hot seat from Michael? Yes, everyone was. Jordan was so good that he needed a supporting cast that would revolve around his amazing talent. If they resisted they were gone. Pippen didn’t resist: he gave in. When you see Jordan play like he did and you are a rookie, you know your game must improve, fast.
And what a talent Pippen saw as a rookie. Michael Jordan shot 54 percent from the field and 84 percent from the line on his way to 35 points per game and a NBA MVP award to go along with his second (of 10) scoring leader title. Jordan had already tried to beat entire teams by himself in the playoffs but no one man can beat a five-man team. For one play they could but not for the entire game.
Jordan was forced to add to his scoring exploits by being everything for the Bulls. He also averaged 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 3.2 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. How did he manage 5.9 assists per game with people like Oakley, Grant, Pippen and Sellers on his team? He found a way to lead the Bulls in assists because he was constantly double and triple teamed. He learned pass work from Dean Smith at UNC and he knew from winning a national title at age 19 that teamwork was paramount.
Pippen didn’t know much as a rookie. He talked, walked and played like a rookie. Yet when Michael was a rookie, he put in 28.2 points per game on 52 percent shooting and no one taught him to take over as a rookie, or even expected him to. He just did it. Jordan didn’t know who Pippen was when Jordan completed one of the most amazing rookie years ever. Pippen didn’t save Jordan but vice versa. Jordan saw in the young man, a prospect due to his ability to jump and take orders. Pippen was always great at taking orders from Jordan. By 1988, Pippen knew either he would have to improve or be ridiculed, attacked and demolished by Jordan. Pippen was a shy type who thought working hard for Jordan would lead him to a secure spot.
By the end of 1988, Jordan was truly the greatest player a person could watch, especially on defense. In fact, Jordan was named Defensive Player of the Year in Pippen’s rookie year. Astonishingly Jordan also led the league in scoring. That has never been done before or again, that type of feat would be reserved for the greatest player to ever play the game. But let’s get real; a game comprised of five players at once is not designed to see five versus one man. Therefore it is impossible for a team without five adequate players to win, or in the Bulls case, at least two or three because Jordan was that good.
Jordan had been on a quest since his rookie year to find a player with the passion for winning that he had and there was none around, not on the Bulls at least, so he had to form one. Pippen seemed like the perfect player for Jordan to mold into a player that would serve Jordan and actually be able to play defense alongside him. He was from a small college, he was impressionable and he didn’t talk back much but just listened.
Jordan started working on Pippen as early as his late rookie year. In the offseason Jordan took him under his wing and probably thought, "If I can get this guy to do what I tell him to do and play how I tell him to play, I might finally have a support team to beat the team with the best five guys out there like maybe Parish, McHale, Bird, DJ and Ainge or Kareem, Green, Worthy, Scott and Johnson or Laimbeer, Mahorn, Rodman, Dumars and Thomas."
Pippen as a rookie looked nothing like he would the next season although he was still developing, and his development came in the areas that Michael excelled in: defense, scoring, rebounding and passing. After crucial and intense summer workouts, Pippen was now at Jordan’s hip. His personality truly mended with the master, as to not confront or object or resent him. In Pippen’s second year, he missed nine games and played 73. His minutes improved to 33.1 minutes per game because he was now always with Jordan and learning how to play directly off him. Pippen didn’t have an amazing game that he worked on by himself to get there where Jordan was. In fact, Pippen looked to Jordan for everything, including his own ability to score.
Jordan scored 32.5 points per game in 1989 but also added an amazing eight rebounds and eight assists per night as he set up new players like Pippen and Grant, which really did help them improve their games. At one point Jordan recorded 11 straight games of 10 or more assists. Jordan also shot 54 percent from the field, which showed Pippen what it takes to be great, because even though Jordan knew greatness as a rookie and second year player, Pippen did not. Pip’s free throw shooting went up to 67 percent and Jordan had a helper under the boards with 6.1 rebounds, as Pippen was a sophomore. Pip was learning to pass too. He added 3.5 assists per game in his second season. Also Pippen picked up on Jordan’s ability to steal 3.2 balls a night (1989). Pip averaged 2 a night. His defense was improving and he averaged 14.4 points per game. Not enough to be the reason why Jordan has six.
In 1990, Pippen improved again under the tutorship of Jordan and scored 16.5 points, grabbed 6.7 rebounds and passed off for 5.4 assists, and 2.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Jordan had done it! It took him three years but Pippen played like Jordan, which Pippen didn’t play like in his first two years. As for the logic that because of Pippen, Jordan was able to win titles, it is wrong. In fact, because of Jordan, Pippen became a good player, and then later he became great, alongside Jordan. They were both on The Dream Team two years later.
In Pippen’s fourth year the Bulls won their first title and Michael Jordan finally had a team that would revolve around him. Leading the troops was Jordan’s actual sidekick Scottie Pippen. If anyone messed with Jordan, Pippen could block them, take a hard hit and play some defense, but essentially this is all about Pippen working FOR Jordan not with him.
In the end, Bryant fans and some others, could say Pippen was the reason for this and that, when in fact, at the actual root of the story is that Jordan chose Pippen, helped turn him into an all-around player through advice and lots and lots of practice and then kept him at his side even in games. Further proof is that the season after Jordan retired Pippen led the Bulls to 55-27 due to the coaching skill of Jackson, but lost to NY and then the next season.......
Funny how these people do not mention that in the next season (1995) the Bulls were about to collapse and were struggling. With 17 games left, they were at 34-31, until Jordan came back and they finished 13-4 to go 47-35 on the season. The next season, because Jordan was able, the Bulls went 72-10.
In the almost two seasons Jordan was gone the Bulls went 89-58 for a .605 win percentage. With the last 17 games of 95 and the upcoming season combined the Bulls were 85-14 (.859) with Jordan.
From 1994 to 1996 - With Jordan 85-14............without Jordan and only with Pippen 89-58!
Pippen finally had his hope come back. Michael was back, and we all knew the titles would be coming again. Were they coming because Pippen was so amazing that it is a foregone conclusion for the Bulls to win? No. Mike made that possible and by 1993 when he left, he had taught Pippen so much that Pippen was an all-star. In 1996, he was reinvigorated as Mike returned. Mike won three more Finals MVP’s and Pippen was there but he never took over, He did what Jordan said and so did the new players because they knew the repercussions.
In conclusion Jordan was such a hoops genius that it may have seemed like without Pippen, Jordan would have no rings, but he would. He just had to find the player with the right personality, size and jumping ability. Pippen was that, but if he never existed, Jordan would have found someone else through the same method.
The method is genius and although Pippen did become good under Mike’s tutelage, Jordan would have gone on to win six anyway and there’s no player I have ever seen in history that could take a Finals MVP from Jordan. Jordan fans: love Pippen for giving in to the GOAT and Kobe fans: do not overrate Pippen’s intrinsic ability in basketball.
Once again I repeat, Michael Jordan created Scottie Pippen's game to serve himself as the greatest basketball player that ever played the game. Was it selfish? Yes. Jordan knew he could be the greatest ever and he would use anyone to get there. In 1988, Jordan used the unpolished rookies Pippen and Grant to forge his path as GOAT, and he is such a b-ball genius that it worked! Does Pippen resent him now? Who cares?