We know it took Kobe Bryant four years to win his first title, but many do not realize it took Pippen the same amount of time.
Similarly, Kobe and Pippen won three straight titles once they got there. Also similar is that each of them was second in Finals MVP voting for their respective teams in the three-peats, because each of them had one of the most dominant players ever on their team: Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan.
The similarities between how Bryant’s and Pippen’s careers started are notable.
Both players averaged just under eight points per game off the bench, and neither were anything like the player they would later become.
Bryant was 18 as a rookie and Pippen was 22, coming out of Central Arkansas.
Lately, Pippen has actually been used against the true teacher of his game—Michael Jordan—as an attempt to minimize Jordan’s six championships.
I contend that Pippen in no way was a player who would bring Jordan titles, but I did always see him as a player who truly listened closely to Michael and did what he said.
Bryant, on the other hand, did not learn the game from Shaq. As is now evident, he may have learned much of his game from the greatest player ever as well!
In this slideshow we compare Bryant's and Pippen’s first four years in the league, and we see how they developed into complementary players for their team’s focal point.
No one—not Jordan, not Shaq, not Magic, not Wilt, not Russell, not Kareem and not Bird—could ever win a title alone (although Jordan did try by scoring the most points ever made in a playoff game with 63, but even that was a failure of an effort). This is a five-man game.