In ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, Michael Jordan called Scottie Pippen his best teammate of all time. The Chicago Bulls legends won six championships together during the ’90s and never lost in the Finals.
After the 1993 championship, Jordan retired from the NBA to play baseball. Pippen was the Bulls’ leader and best player during the 1993-94 season and put up spectacular numbers.
However, the versatile small forward made a colossal mistake in the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks, and Jordan knew it would haunt Pippen for the rest of his life.
Michael Jordan on Scottie Pippen not going into game: He’s going to be criticized the rest of his life for that
Bulls head coach Phil Jackson drew up a game-winning shot for Toni Kukoc in Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Knicks. Pippen was so angry that he refused to go into the game.
Jordan, who watched the game with his baseball teammates, knew Pippen would never be able to escape that moment.
“Scottie didn’t understand that, and I didn’t have the chance to teach him,” Jordan said, via Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein. “He jumped the gun and you can’t do that, especially not in a playoff game. And unfortunately, he’s going to be criticized the rest of his life for that. That’s the kind of situation that sticks with you.”
Kukoc hit the game-winner against the Knicks. Bill Cartwright called out Pippen for not going into the game in the postgame locker room, and both players cried. Pip apologized to his teammates and played well in the series, but the Bulls lost in seven games.
Jordan was disappointed in Pippen since his partner in crime knew better than that. However, the five-time MVP believes it was beneficial for the swingman to play without him.
Michael Jordan: I kept telling Scottie Pippen it’s not easy being me
After Pippen’s oversight in the 1994 playoffs, Jordan told baseball reporters that it wasn’t easy being him. He also admitted he wished he was with the Bulls at the time.
“Poor Scottie. I kept telling him it’s not easy being me. Now he knows,” Jordan said. “Toni was bawling like a kid, and I didn’t even know him that well. In that one instance, I wish I could have played, just so I could have taught him and helped him learn the game.”
In what had to be a shock to Bulls fans, Pippen said in The Last Dance that he would still refuse to go into the game against the Knicks if he had a chance to do it all over again. The Hall of Famer was upset that Jackson didn’t let him take the game-winning shot despite being the top player on the team.
After losing to the Knicks in the 1994 playoffs, Pippen was almost traded to the Seattle SuperSonics. However, Seattle backed out at the last minute, and the rest is history.
Bulls won three more rings
Jordan returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season. However, he and Pippen lost to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals. Many pundits declared that Chicago wouldn’t win another championship in the Jordan-Pippen era. Oh, were they wrong.
Not only did Jordan and Pippen win three straight titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998, but they also guided the Bulls to 72 wins in 1995-96. The NBA icons quieted their naysayers following the Magic series and reminded everyone why they are the best duo in basketball history.
Both Jordan and Pippen are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and have their jerseys hanging in the rafters at the United Center. Although it’s unfortunate what Pippen did in the 1994 playoffs, Jordan never lost faith in his friend and only came back to the Bulls because the All-NBA defender didn’t get traded.