Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen made major headlines when he recently called Phil Jackson a racist. The Hall of Famer told Dan Patrick on the Dan Patrick Show that race played a role in Jackson’s decision to draw up a game-winning play for Toni Kukoc in Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Pippen is getting destroyed by several sports personalities for calling the coach he won six championships with a racist. His comments were shocking, especially when you consider that Jackson has always spoken highly of him and never thrown him under the bus.
Phil Jackson defended Scottie Pippen in the Last Dance
In Episode 2 of the popular Last Dance docuseries, Michael Jordan called Pippen selfish for delaying his ankle surgery on purpose. The iconic small forward decided to undergo surgery during the 1997-98 season instead of the summer of 1997 because he was upset at Bulls management for not extending his contract.
When director Jason Hehir asked Jackson if he was upset by the way Pippen handled his surgery, the Zen Master surprisingly said “no” since he understood the message the All-Star swingman was trying to send. He seemingly always had Pippen’s back since he knew how instrumental the All-NBA defender was in the locker room and on the court.
Jordan was the best scorer in the NBA during his run with the Bulls. He won 10 scoring titles and is the all-time leader in points per game. However, Pippen was the superior all-around player, according to Jackson. The 11-time champion gave the Arkansas native the ultimate praise by calling him the greatest all-around player in the NBA, which makes Pippen’s claim that Jackson is a racist even more puzzling.
Phil Jackson: Scottie Pippen is the greatest all-around player in the NBA
During a ’90s interview with Chris Myers, Jackson said Pippen was the greatest all-around player in the NBA. He also raved about how the 1993-94 All-Star Game MVP was such an unselfish player. It was as if Jackson went out of his way to compliment Pippen when Myers kept bringing up Jordan.
“Scottie is such an unselfish player. He’s the greatest all-around player in the NBA right now,” Jackson said. “He’s absolutely terrific. People get a chance to watch him every night. Michael’s a terrific player, but Scottie as a rebounder, as a passer, as a defender, he’s the whole complete package.”
Pippen scored, rebounded, passed, and defended at a high level for the Bulls during his first stint with the team. He averaged 18.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.1 steals from 1987-88 to 1997-98. There is simply no way the Bulls win six championships without Pippen, who is widely recognized as the best No. 2 option in NBA history.
It’s unknown why Pippen called Jackson a racist. None of the latter’s former players have called him a racist, but it’s important to note that Jackson has said some controversial things in the past, and Pippen was with him every day from 1989 to 1998.
The Bulls great may have seen and heard things the public isn’t aware of, but a few quotes from Jackson are out there for everyone to read.
The Zen Master has said some contentious things
FS1 analyst Emmanuel Acho argued that Pippen might not have been wrong in calling Jackson a racist, but he believes the former NBA superstar used the wrong evidence. Saying Jackson was racist for drawing up the final shot for Kukoc is a little farfetched since Kukoc was a better shooter than Pippen.
However, Acho pointed out two quotes from Jackson that could be used in Pippen’s favor since they were certainly eyebrow-raising. Below are the two quotes:
“I don’t mean to say [that] as a snide remark toward a certain population in our society, but they have a limitation of their attention span, a lot of it probably due to too much rap music going in their ears and coming out their being.”
“I think it’s important that the players take their end of it, get out of the prison garb and the thuggery aspect of basketball that has come along with hip-hop music in the last seven or eight years.”
Jackson hasn’t responded to Pippen’s claim that he’s a racist. He probably won’t since he’s remained out of the limelight — besides being interviewed for the Last Dance — since stepping down from his post with the New York Knicks in 2017.
It has been strange to see Pippen talk so negatively about Jordan and Jackson while promoting his new memoir and bourbon. It’s safe to say that he’s not afraid to be a polarizing figure.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.