Scottie Pippen grew up in poverty in Hamburg, Arkansas. He had 11 siblings, and his father and one of his brothers were in wheelchairs. Pippen’s father suffered a stroke, while his brother was paralyzed after getting hurt in gym class.
Basketball gave Pippen an opportunity to get out of the house and escape all the turmoil he dealt with. Julius Erving was his childhood hero, and Pippen always believed that he would make it to the NBA one day, even if his family and best friend didn’t think so.
Scottie Pippen’s best friend didn’t believe him when he said he would be an NBA player
In Episode 2 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, Pippen’s childhood friend, Ronnie Martin, admitted that he didn’t take Pippen seriously when the swingman told him he would be in the NBA one day. You can’t really blame Martin for thinking that way. After all, Pippen started off as the equipment manager at the University of Central Arkansas, a school that produced zero NBA players before him.
“He always knew he was going to make it to the NBA,” Martin said. [Director Jason Hehir] “And you believed him?” [Martin] “Not really. Scottie arrived at UCA, and he started off as being the equipment manager, but he was practicing and doing all of those things that he should do with the team.”
A few guys on the basketball team weren’t doing well in school, so they lost their scholarships. Pippen was persistent and kept asking the head coach if he could join the team, and he eventually got a scholarship.
Pippen grew two inches during his first season, and UCA head coach Don Dyer gave him a chance to play. By the start of his sophomore year, Pippen was 6-foot-6 and became one of the best players in all of college basketball. He averaged 23.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists as a senior and entered his name into the 1987 NBA Draft. The rest is history after that.
Scottie Pippen was the fifth pick in the 1987 NBA Draft
The Seattle SuperSonics drafted Pippen with the fifth overall pick in the 1987 draft. However, they traded him to the Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice and two future draft picks.
Pippen averaged 7.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists as a rookie. Behind Michael Jordan, the Bulls won 50 games in 1987-88 and defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 1988 playoffs. However, Chicago lost to the Detroit Pistons in the second round in five games.
Doug Collins was Pippen’s first coach in the NBA. In his memoir, Unguarded, the NBA icon admitted that he didn’t like playing for Collins, whose offense was catered to Jordan. The Bulls fired Collins after the 1988-89 season and replaced him with Phil Jackson, who installed the triangle offense.
Pippen thrived in the triangle offense. He not only made his first All-Star team in Jackson’s first season as coach, but the small forward also gained the trust of Jordan, who needed a partner in crime to reach the promised land.
Michael Jordan and Pip dominated the NBA after learning the triangle
Jordan and Pippen became an unstoppable duo once they learned the triangle offense. The Bulls won six championships and three-peated twice while going undefeated in the Finals during the ’90s.
Pippen played in the triangle offense from 1989-1990 to 1997-98. He averaged 19.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists during that stretch and made seven All-Star teams. Although Jordan won all six Finals MVPs for the Bulls, he wouldn’t have won six rings without Pippen, one of the best two-way players in NBA history. After all, Jordan never got out of the first round of the playoffs until Pippen got to Chicago.
After the Bulls’ dynasty ended in 1998, Pippen played one season for the Houston Rockets and four with the Portland Trail Blazers before returning to Chicago for a 23-game stint in 2003-04. The six-time champion finished his career with averages of 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 2.0 steals. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and is the only person to win an NBA championship and Olympic gold medal twice in the same year.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference
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