Understandably. Jordan is an icon. He’s a brand. Most importantly, he was the best. Whether you’re dreaming of a trip back in basketball time in Chicago or North Carolina or perhaps still eating sour grapes in New York or Utah, one thing is universal–MJ changed the game and sports, in general, for the better.
Jordan had explosiveness, smarts, and a killer instinct like no other. He was nasty on the floor. The opponent was the enemy. The way it should be. A far cry from what we see today with losing players often chuckling and groping their pals on the winning squad as soon as that final buzzer sounds. When it comes to individual prowess, Jordan is in a class by himself. A closer look at the accomplishments of Jordan’s teams however show behind every ultra-superstar there’s a mega-point forward.
Here’s the math: 23 + 33 = 6.
All six titles Jordan won were enjoyed side-by-side his partner-in-grind, Scottie Pippen. Neither won without the other. Jordan had some incredible years before the Bulls took a chance on Scott Pippen (as he was called on Draft Day 1987 when selected by Seattle), but never even knocked on the championship door
without Pippen playing Robin to his Batman. After the Jerry Krause-induced, unnecessary Bulls breakup, Pippen came oh-so-close to a Finals appearance with a solid Portland team featuring Steve Smith and
Rasheed Wallace, but they just couldn’t get by the Lakers. Pippen needed Jordan. But just as much, if not more so, Jordan needed Pippen. Together they knocked the championship door down again and again.
Pippen was the best all-around ballplayer I’ve ever seen. The way he excelled at so many aspects of the game, especially that tenacious defense, was simply amazing. With Pippen’s 2010 induction into the Hall of Fame, his career has been immortalized. Yet, unlike any player before or since, he is always thought of as a sidekick. Montana and Rice were considered peers. Ruth and Gehrig, equally important cogs in Murderer’s Row. While Jordan is clearly the superior player to Pippen, and everyone else for that matter, Pippen’s
importance to the six-pack of Chicago crowns is right there with mighty Jordan.
I remember an interview with Bob Costas that I saw when I was growing up, in which Costas said he carried a baseball card of Mickey Mantle in his wallet because of how much Mantle inspired him. At the time, I thought that was really corny. Well, fast-forward to today and I am a man in my thirties, with two kids of my own, and multiple time-consuming jobs, and I have a Scottie Pippen USA Dream Team card in my wallet! Pippen truly inspired me. During his prime, when the Bulls were winning championships, I was either in high school, in college, or just starting my adult life. To me, Pip meant more than just a great player. He represents a fun, wonderful time period. Nothing was better than watching those rock-star Bulls clubs as a young man, enjoying memorable moments with my friends, my sister, and my grandfather.
As far as Pippen’s on the court performance, I believe he is one of the most underrated athletes in the history of sports. He should have been league MVP in 1994, he should have won a Finals MVP too, but as we know, politics often plays a part in those types of decisions. This man was all over the place. He did what needed to be done. He could score, pass, rebound, and most of all shut down the other team’s top player
every single night with Doberman defense.
My favorite Bulls team, other than the 72-win 1996 squad, was the 1994 Jordan-less club led by Scottie Pippen. They didn’t win it all (although they should have, Mr. Hollins), but they were so tough, so gritty, so fun; and Pippen was the leader. He stuck things out during that tough two year stretch when Jordan took his swings in the Minors and rose to the occasion to capture three more rings when Mike returned while Dennis Rodman and other pieces were added.
I remained a Bulls fan when Pip left the Windy City, but I must say I was rooting for the Rockets and Blazers as well when he played for those franchises. I was so happy when Chicago brought Scottie back for
his final year. I think his presence and tutelage contributed to the success of the squad years afterward as they made several playoff appearances. He serves as a team ambassador to this day and you can see
him court side at almost every Bulls home game. What a great resource for the Noahs, Dengs, and Roses of the world in case they need help with anything. A player like Pippen really does have an answer for every aspect of the game.
The way Pippen played on the court should serve as a reminder to anyone, in any field, exactly how to do things the right way. Not only was he the straw that stirred the Bulls drink, but he conducted himself with class and integrity. He delivered when expectations were high and surprised the prognosticators when the bar was set low.
The Bulls were blessed to have the great Phil Jackson calling the shots, Horace Grant or Rodman doing the dirty work, and a cast of characters that knew their respective roles inside and out and fulfilled them to a tee. All of it played a huge part. The most important ingredient though was the tandem of Jordan, the most
valuable, and Pippen, the most versatile.
Kevin Scholla is a radio news and sports anchor. Follow him on Twitter @KevinScholla. He also announces for several professional and college teams. Kevin is the creator of SarahNET Radio and the host of The Palin Update with Kevin Scholla. Kevin also hosts Breaking It Down With Bristol (Bristol Palin) and Steel Resolve (Sarah Steelman). He is a State Coordinator for American Grizzlies United and serves as a TV panelist for various networks, hosts a Comcast TV show, writes about sports and politics, coaches youth sports, and attempts to contain his two children.