The Truths and Myths to Scottie Pippen

Shady BotrosAnalyst IAugust 15, 2010

The Truths and Myths to Scottie Pippen

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    Scottie Pippen was inducted to the basketball hall of fame alongside others such as Karl Malone, the 1992 dream team, and Dennis Johnson.

    Pippen was a central piece to the Bulls' six titles, and in his prime, Pippen was among the best forwards in the game. Pippen was the other half to the greatest one-two punch in the history of the NBA.

    In fact, today not only is the media trying to find the next Jordan, but the media is trying to find his Pippen. A sidekick in the NBA is no longer referred to as a sidekick, but as a Pippen.

    Scottie Pippen was a great player and a great sidekick, but there are many misconceptions and myths about Pippen, ones that make us celebrate Pippen as an all-time great. Here’s the truth to the sidekick of the great Michael Jordan. 

Truth: Scottie Pippen was the best wing defender of his era

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    Scottie Pippen was the ultimate defender.

    Physically, he had the gifts to do be a great defender, he had great size, and might have had the longest arms in the league, however Pippen was also tough, and he had a defender's mentality.

    Pippen was beyond your solid 6-8 defender, he could guard point guards, wings, and even bigs.

    Almost no wing player in the NBA today can guard small quick point guards the way Pippen did.

    Pippen averaged two steals for his career, including two straight seasons where he was just short of averaging three steals.  

    Pippen was named to the all-defensive team 12 times in his 17 year career, including eight first team selections, almost unheard of.

    Measuring by today’s standards, Kobe Bryant has only made first team all-defense eight times,

    Bruce Bowen has done it five times, and neither Tayshaun Prince nor Shane Battier have ever done it. That alone should speak volumes about Pippen’s outstanding defense.

    On every one of the Bulls championship teams, Pippen guarded the opposing team’s best player, and he shut down most.

    Pippen is credited for guarding Magic Johnson during the 1991 finals, and while he didn’t shut down Magic, Magic was limited due to Pippen’s defense.

    Pippen’s defense was key reason in the Bulls success; it allowed Jordan to exert his energy on the offensive end and ultimately play more minutes.

    Could the Bulls have won six titles without a defensive stopper like Pippen? Maybe not. No other player in that era could replicate the defensive efforts of Scottie Pippen. 

Truth: Pippen was a product of Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Chicago

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    By no means would Scottie Pippen have been the same player had Jerry Krause never made the draft day trade that sent Scottie Pippen from Seattle to Chicago.

    Pippen entered the league on what would be the best NBA team ever, playing alongside the best NBA player ever, for the best NBA coach ever.

    Pippen could never have been a No. 1 guy on a title team; after Jordan’s first retirement, Pippen lead the Bulls to a 55 win season, Pippen was finally the lead dog, but never good enough to take his team to the promised land.

    In the 93-95 season, Pippen became the second player to ever lead his team in points, rebounds, and assists.

    However, the team won 55 games, and was eventually knocked out by the New York Knicks in the eastern conference semis.

    The next season Jordan returned and played in 17 games, the team won 47 games, and lost again in the Eastern Conference semis, this time to the Orlando Magic.

    During the two years Jordan was retired, the Bulls missed Jordan, but more so Pippen missed Jordan, and while Pippen got his stats, and he was the top dog, he realized that it was better when he had Jordan and the team was winning.

    Pippen realized he wasn’t made to be the alpha dog, but to be a sidekick.

    Pippen was also a product of his coach Phil Jackson; Jackson’s triangle offense utilized Pippen’s ability to shoot, score, and be a playmaker.

    Pippen didn’t become the player we know today until Phil Jackson transformed him from a guy who averaged 12 points a game in two seasons, to the greatest sidekick of all time.

    Pippen was also a product of playing in one of America’s biggest markets in Chicago.

    Had Jerry Krause never made the trade for Pippen, Pippen would’ve been stuck on a mediocre Supersonics team playing alongside the likes of Xavier McDaniel, and Dale Ellis.

    Pippen wouldn’t have gotten the attention or treatment from the media had he been playing in a small market.

    Had Pippen played his whole career in a small market, we would not have thought of him as an all time great.

    I’ll pose this question to you who was a better individual player, Scottie Pippen or Alex English.

    English had a better career scoring average 21.5 compared to Pippen’s 16, but almost all of today’s NBA fans have never heard of English, and Pippen is widely recognized.

    The fact is English spent his career playing in smaller cities like Milwaukee and Denver.

    Had English played in a bigger market, and Scottie played alone in a small market, we would think of English as a top 50 player.

    The same goes for a player like George Gervin, who in my opinion is also better than Pippen. 

Myth: Pippen deserved to be on the 1992 dream team

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    By the time the Dream Team was announced, Scottie Pippen had played in one all star caliber season, which was the 91-92 season in which he averaged 21-7-7. Pippen was growing as a player and entering his prime.

    On the other hand, Isiah Thomas was just coming off leading the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back titles, Thomas was considered the best point guard in the NBA, and was adding to his Hall of Fame resume.

    Isiah Thomas deserved to be on the team, and no explanation other than conspiracy, and retaliation for Isiah Thomas being part of the “Freezing out” Jordan in the 1985 All-Star game.

    Supposedly, Jordan said he wouldn’t play if Zeke was named to the Dream Team, and Pippen labeled Isiah a cheap shot artist. Bottom line: Isiah deserved it more than Pippen.

    Dominique Williams deserved it more than Pippen too; at the time Wilkins was a more established player, and a much better scorer than Pippen would ever be.

    Pippen did not belong on the 1992 Dream Team; there were a few others who deserved it more.

Myth: Pippen was a clutch player

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    I struggle to find where this notion that Scottie Pippen was clutch player comes from; does it come from the media? Does it come from the fans?  Regardless, Pippen was never a clutch player, not even remotely clutch.

    I haven’t even mentioned the number 1.8, but here it goes. In the 1994 Eastern Conference semis, Bulls vs. Knicks, game tied at 102, and with 1.8 seconds left, the Bulls were going to inbound the ball for what would be the game-winning shot.

    Bulls coach Phil Jackson drew up a play in which Scottie Pippen would inbound and Toni Kukoc would take the final shot.

    Pippen was furious that he would be inbounding and not taking the shot himself, after he had groomed himself to be the team’s best player.

    Pippen had been trying to be Jordan all year, however instead of inbounding; Pippen threw the towel, cursed out his coach, sat out the play in which Kukoc hit a fall away 23-footer.

    Pippen had basically quit with the game up for grabs.

    That’s not the only example, Pippen’s first year in Portland, the Blazers up 15 points with 10 minutes left against the Lakers, Game 7, it’s win or go home, and Portland has it all but secured.

    The Lakers went on a 15-0 run and eventually won 89-84 to pull off what is the greatest comeback in NBA history, and the worst choke in NBA history.

    Pippen had a terrible game as he fouled out with 25 seconds left, and shot 3-for-10 from the field, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds. Pippen was brought into Portland to bring veteran leadership, experience, and closing ability.

    Everyone was waiting for Pippen to take over the game, to be a closer and seal the deal for Portland.

    However, Pippen came up very small, scoring 9 of his 12 in the first quarter, and going 1 for 7 from the field for the rest of the game.

    Instead of taking over the game, Pippen watched Rasheed Wallace, Steve Smith, and Brian Grant shoot the Blazers out of the game. He did nothing; he just stood by and was barely noticeable. The Blazers needed a few baskets to seal the deal, and Pippen was nowhere to be found.

    Every time, the Bulls had the chance at the winning shot, they would rather have Jordan taking the shot with five guys on him, rather than a wide-open Pippen.

    Jordan got the shot no matter how he was guarded, Pippen wasn’t the guy who puts the team on his back and finds a way to win in the worst of circumstances.  

    Pippen was asked to be Jordan when Jordan left the game. He was asked to be a veteran leader when he joined the Blazers, the pressure was simply too much for Pippen to handle. 

Pippen was a top 50 player of all time

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    The NBA released its top 50 team back in 1996, had the team been released today, Pippen wouldn’t have been on the list, even back then Pippen shouldn’t have made it. Back then, Pippen still hadn’t even won his last two titles.

    I could think of a few players who deserved to be on the list over Scottie Pippen. Bob McAdoo was the first big man who could put the ball on the floor, and play on the perimeter.

    McAdoo led the league in scoring three times, including once in his second season. McAdoo was a former league MVP, unlike Pippen.

    Joe Dumars is another player more deserving than Pippen. Dumars was a key cog on the bad boy Pistons.

    Dumars was a beast on defense, he was a great shooter, and he could carry the team when called upon.

    Dumars was one of the game's clutch players, winning the 1989 NBA finals MVP trophy, something Pippen had never done.

    Reggie Miller came into the league the same time as Pippen, however Miller gets much less recognition despite being one of the best clutch performers the league has ever seen.

    Maybe it's because Reggie played in Indiana while Pippen played in Chicago, or because Reggie never won a title. 

    Nonetheless, Miller had the ability to put a team on his back late in the game, and get it done. Pippen wasn't that kind of player. 

    I believe Miller and Pippen are basically on the same level when it comes to all-time status.

    Miller could carry a team on his back, but he never won a title; Pippen could complement a superstar which allowed him to win six titles, but Pippen gets much more recognition.

    Reality is Pippen benefited greatly playing alongside the greatest player of all time, under the greatest coach of all time, in one of the world's biggest markets.

    I'm sure Pippen would've been a multiple time all star had he played alongside a mediocre supporting cast, but he wouldn't have been a top 50 player of all time. 

Myth: Pippen was one of the greatest players of his era

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    By greatest of his era, I mean one of the five or six best to play the game at that time, the problem is that the basketball hall of fame has low standards and lets in more players than deserved.

    I believe hall of fame should be only for the five or six greatest players per era, with a few exceptions, not letting in every player who was simply great or really good.

    While Pippen was a great player, he certainly wasn’t in the top five or six players to play in the early to mid 90s.

    Pippen's prime lasted from the 90-91 season to the 96-97 season. In that span, Pippen averaged 20 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, those are impressive numbers but not top five or six during his era.

    Unfortunately for Scottie Pippen, the era he played in was one of the NBA’s greatest, and he’s definitely not one of the greatest of that era by my standards.

    To list a few who were certainly better than Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, and Hakeem Olajuwon, not to mention Michael Jordan.

    Those six are considered to be among the top 25 players to ever play the game.

    Then there’s the second tier of Hall of Famers, one that includes John Stockton, Reggie Miller, and Pippen. Stockton was inducted to the Hall of Fame last year, and is the all time leader in assists, and steals, undoubtedly a Hall of Famer.

    I believe Reggie Miller should go in on the first ballot, just like Pippen did.

    Pippen was a top 10 player of his era, but not in that upper tier of five or six guys, therefore not one of greatest players of his era, but a great player who played in one of basketball's best times. 


The Bottom line

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    Scottie Pippen was a great player, he had a great career, but the bottom line is Scottie Pippen wouldn’t be celebrated the way he is today had he not played with Michael Jordan.

    Pippen came to the league in a perfect situation, had he been asked to carry a team on his back his whole career, Pippen would be ring-less.

    We saw it when Jordan left basketball, Pippen was asked to carry the team, and he knew he couldn’t do it.

    I’m not saying Pippen isn’t a Hall of Famer, but he wasn’t a top 50 player, he wasn’t one of the greatest of his era, he wasn’t a clutch player, he was a product of the great Michael Jordan.

    Pippen was the ultimate sidekick to the greatest of all time, in what was the greatest one-two punch of all time, and there’s no shame in that.




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