When you think of dynamic duos in the NBA, Chicago Bulls legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are usually the first two names that come to mind. Not only did they win six championships together, but they also went 6-0 and never had to play in a Game 7 in the Finals.
People often forget that Jordan needed Pippen just as much as the small forward needed him. After all, the Bulls didn’t win their first playoff series during the MJ era until after Pippen came to the team in the 1987 NBA draft.
Jordan and Pippen will forever be linked to each other, and they never minced words on why they were the greatest duo in NBA history during their glory days on the Bulls.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen only lost four playoff series together
The Bulls drafted Jordan with the third overall pick in the 1984 draft. Although they made the playoffs three consecutive years with the high-flyer leading the way, they lost in the first round of the playoffs three straight times to the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics (twice).
Jordan finally got the help he needed on draft night in 1987. The Seattle SuperSonics selected Pippen with the fifth overall pick out of Arkansas, but they traded him to the Bulls in a draft-night trade. Although the swingman only averaged 7.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists as a rookie, he increased his scoring average to 10.6 points in the Bulls’ first-round matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1988 playoffs and helped the team win its first postseason series during the Jordan era.
Jordan never lost in the first round of the playoffs after the Bulls acquired Pippen. However, he and his partner in crime had difficulty getting past the Detroit Pistons, losing to their Central Division rival in the playoffs three straight years in 1988, 1989, and 1990. It wasn’t until the 1991 playoffs when Jordan and Pippen beat the Pistons. They swept the “Bad Boys” in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals and became the new kings of the East.
The Bulls won three straight titles in ’91, ’92, and ’93. Jordan then retired from the NBA after the tragic murder of his father in the summer of ’93. He took his talents to the baseball field, leaving Pippen as the Bulls’ alpha in 1993-94. Phil Jackson’s group won 55 games in the first season without Jordan and made it to the second round of the playoffs. However, they lost to the New York Knicks in seven games.
Jordan returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season. He and Pippen defeated the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the ’95 playoffs but lost to the Orlando Magic in the conference semifinals. The two superstars regrouped in the summer of 1995 and came back with a vengeance in 1995-96. They led the Bulls to 72 wins and the championship over the SuperSonics.
Jordan and Pippen won two more rings in ’97 and ’98. They only lost four playoff series together and could possibly have won more championships had Jordan not retired in ’93 and had Bulls management not broken up the team after the sixth ring in ’98.
What made Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen so special together?
During the 1997 Finals, Jordan and Pippen spoke to NBC Sports about what made them so special together. MJ touched on how they could dominate a game both offensively and defensively, while Pippen said they saw and read the game the same way.
Jordan believed the chemistry he and Pippen shared was the separator between other duos: “I think that’s the plus of the relationship, of the talents that we have.” So many All-Star duos haven’t worked or lasted long because of egos and jealousy. That was never an issue with Jordan and Pippen on the Bulls.
The last game Jordan and Pippen played with each other was Game 6 of the ’98 Finals. The Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz for their sixth title, with Jordan hitting the game-winning shot over Bryon Russell.
Don’t worry Bulls fans, MJ and Scottie are still friends
There were rumors last summer that Pippen was upset at Jordan for how the Last Dance docuseries painted him in Episodes 2 and 7. The best small forward in Bulls history even admitted that he told His Airness he wasn’t pleased with the documentary.
However, Pippen clarified on Da Windy City podcast that he and Jordan will always be close no matter what people on the outside say.
“My relationship with Michael is great, great as ever, there is nothing changed,” Pippen said. “This documentary has not changed our relationship. We will be friends forever.”
The thought of Jordan and Pippen not being friends would sting for Bulls fans, so it’s a huge relief for them that the two legends are still close.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.