Chicago Bulls legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are two of the greatest defenders in NBA history. The former made nine All-Defensive teams and won the 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year Award, while the latter made 10 All-Defensive teams.
Jordan and Pippen are widely recognized as the best duo in NBA history since they won six championships together and dominated games on both sides of the ball. While both Hall of Famers were lockdown defenders in their prime, a player who played against the Bulls icons believes Jordan was a slightly better defender than Pippen.
Kendall Gill: Michael Jordan was a better defender than Scottie Pippen
According to former NBA small forward Kendall Gill, Jordan was a better defender than Pippen. However, the Chicago native says it’s really close.
“Oh, man. I’d have to say lockdown, MJ. Off the ball, Scottie, probably because Scottie blocked shots,” Gill told Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein. “Michael did the same thing, but Scottie can guard four positions. Michael guarded three. I give a slight edge to MJ because whenever he wanted to, he could do whatever he wanted.”
Jordan won the steals title three times with the Bulls. He’s also third in NBA history in steals with 2,514. Meanwhile, Pippen was the 1994-95 steals champion and is seventh all-time in steals. The do-it-all swingman recorded 2,307.
Jordan and Pippen made life miserable for their opponents due to their stellar defensive skills. However, in the same interview with Silverstein, Gill acknowledged that both Bulls superstars had weaknesses on defense.
What areas did Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen struggle in on defense?
Gill told Silverstein that you could lose Jordan sometimes on defense since the five-time MVP turned his head a lot. The Illinois product also noticed that Pippen had a tough time guarding the right-to-left crossover.
“You can lose Michael sometimes in the heat of battle,” Gill said. “If you moved a lot, sometimes he will lose you. He can recover, but sometimes you can burn him because his head would be turned. He’s such a competitor. He might try to play his teammate’s position. That’s how you can lose him sometimes … Scottie had a tough time guarding the right-to-left crossover. He couldn’t for some reason. That was the only weakness defensively Scottie had. For some reason, he just didn’t open up very well going that way.”
Jordan and Pippen are two of the most exceptional players in NBA history. However, even they weren’t perfect despite their 6-0 record in the Finals. Every player who has ever played basketball has had some flaw. Some guys are just better than others at hiding their weaknesses.
Bulls beat Charles Barkley in 1993, Karl Malone and John Stockton in 1997 and 1998
Barkley, Malone, and Stockton are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. However, each guy never won a championship because of Jordan and Pippen.
The Bulls defeated Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 Finals. Jordan averaged 41.0 points in the six-game series, while Pippen put up 21.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. Barkley finished the series with averages of 27.3 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. However, it wasn’t enough to take down MJ and Pip.
Arguably the best pick-and-roll duo in NBA history, Malone and Stockton guided the Utah Jazz to back-to-back Finals in 1997 and 1998. While Utah gave Chicago a run for its money, Jordan and Pippen came out on top both times in six games.
There have been plenty of extraordinary duos in basketball. However, Jordan and Pippen set the bar high with their perfect Finals record and tremendous two-way play. It will be difficult for any future duo to match the success they had.
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