Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had different leadership styles on the Chicago Bulls. The former was a demanding teammate who didn’t accept losing or mistakes, while the latter was the much softer teammate. Jordan would yell at you if you missed a shot, while Pippen would pat you on the back and tell you to keep shooting.
Jordan’s mentality was to win at any cost, even if he had to do it by himself. However, he knew that he would need help to win championships, which is why Pippen became his focal point in 1990. His Airness began starting to build the confidence Pip required to become one of the best players in the NBA, and the Bulls’ starting point guard during the first three-peat believes no other player benefited more from playing with Jordan than Pippen.
BJ Armstrong: Scottie Pippen benefited the most from playing with Michael Jordan
According to BJ Armstrong, Pippen benefited the most from playing with Jordan. In ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, the former Bulls guard said Jordan helped shape Pippen’s mentality.
“More than any other player, Scottie benefited from playing with Michael Jordan,” Armstrong said in The Last Dance. “Because Scottie had this raw athletic ability. What he didn’t have was what Michael brought every day, which was the drive to be the very best every single day. The mental focus of the game.”
Jordan and Pippen began forming a strong bond on the court in 1989-90, and the Bulls took off as a result.
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen dominated the ’90s
Once Jordan and Pippen began to trust each other on the court, the Bulls became nearly unbeatable. The NBA legends went 514-177 together during the regular season, won six championships in an eight-year span, and three-peated twice.
In The Last Dance, Jordan not only called Pippen his best teammate of all time, but he also spoke about how he and the small forward bonded once they realized they could count on each other in the heat of battle.
“I would never be able to find a tandem, another support system, another partner in the game of basketball like Scottie Pippen,” Jordan said. “He was a pleasure to play with. He helped me so much in the way that I approached the game, the way I played the game. Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen. When everybody says, well, I won all these championships, but I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen and, you know, that’s why I consider him my best teammate of all time. … The thing about Pip is, you know, you stand next to him, you make him stronger. All the Detroit times when Rodman wanted to pick on him, he needed someone there to stand there and say, ‘Hey look, I’ll fight with you, just fight.’ Scottie and I bonded because he felt like OK, he has someone that he can count on, and I’m looking at OK, I got someone who I can actually count on.”
Pippen has been going off on Jordan ever since The Last Dance came out. He’s upset over how he was portrayed and felt the docuseries focused way too much on Jordan. While it’s undoubtedly been sad for Bulls fans to watch Pippen bash Jordan left and right, nothing can change how dominant they were as a duo when it mattered most.
Bulls didn’t just win six championships; they went undefeated in the Finals
Winning six championships is excellent. Going undefeated in the Finals is almost impossible, but that’s what Jordan and Pippen did in the ’90s. The Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, and Utah Jazz (twice) for their six rings and never played in a Game 7.
Jordan averaged 33.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in 35 games in the Finals. He won all six Finals MVPs for the Bulls and is second in Finals history in points per game. Meanwhile, Pippen put up 19.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game in the Finals. He’s third all-time in Finals history in steals with 67 and is universally recognized as the greatest “Robin” ever.
There have been several stellar duos in NBA history. However, Jordan and Pippen are the only duo to go undefeated in the Finals. They made each other better on the court, and a case can be made that they needed each other to become NBA icons.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference