Chicago Bulls legends Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan are two of the best defenders in NBA history. The former made 10 All-Defensive teams during his career and is seventh all-time in steals, while the latter made nine All-Defensive teams, won the 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year Award, and is third all-time in steals.
After ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries came out in April 2020, Pippen has been bashing Jordan left and right for how the docuseries turned out. The Hall of Famer’s new memoir, Unguarded, is best described as a rebuttal to The Last Dance, and Pippen wrote in his book that he was a better defender than Jordan and he should’ve been in the running every season for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Scottie Pippen: I was a better defender than Michael Jordan
Pippen believes he was a superior defender than Jordan. The Arkansas native wrote that the media played a significant role in MJ always being in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I was superior to Michael in both individual and team defense,” Pippen wrote. “Of course, because the media believed Michael could do nothing wrong, he was in the running every season for the Defensive Player of the Year award. I was not.”
During the 1987-88 season, Jordan made NBA history by becoming the first player to win MVP and DPOY in the same campaign. He averaged 35.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 3.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks and led the league in scoring, steals, and minutes.
Pippen led the NBA in steals in 1994-95. The six-time champion revealed in his book that he and Jordan would compete to get the most steals. However, Pippen wrote that it was never a fair fight.
Scottie Pippen: Official scorer cooked the stats for Michael Jordan
Pippen, who comes off as bitter in his book, claims the Bulls’ official scorer cooked the stats for Jordan so that His Airness would win the steals competition.
“Say I deflected the ball and tapped it over to him,” Pippen wrote. “I should get credit for the steal, right? Nope. More often than not, the steal went into his column on the stat sheet, and I could do nothing about it. Not because Michael was a better defender. Heavens, no. It was because Michael was better at getting people to do whatever he wanted. I saw it over and over, from the first training camp in 1987 to the last victory rally in 1998.”
Jordan is the Bulls’ all-time leader in steals. He racked up 2,306 during his legendary run in Chicago and won three steals titles. Pippen is second in franchise history with 1,792 steals. However, he believes he should have more.
There’s no question that Pippen and Jordan were lethal defenders, but who was better? Former NBA small forward Kendall Gill, who had several battles with the Bulls icons, was asked by Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein to name the greater defender, and he went with Jordan.
Kendall Gill: MJ was a better defender than Pip
Gill told Silverstein that he thinks Jordan was a slightly better defender than Pippen. The Chicago native had a record of 7-20 versus Jordan and 8-25 against Pippen, so he knows them well.
“Oh, man. I’d have to say lockdown, MJ. Off the ball, Scottie, probably because Scottie blocked shots,” Gill said. “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.”
Pippen and Jordan wreaked havoc together in the ’90s. They won six championships and three-peated twice. However, The Last Dance may have fractured their relationship since Pippen felt belittled and disrespected. With that said, don’t be surprised if Pippen continues to take shots at Jordan moving forward.
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