While it’s been quite a while since Scottie Pippen last hit the NBA hardwood, the former forward hasn’t had any problem making headlines recently. With a new bourbon hitting store shelves and a book on the way, Pip has been on the media circuit and, unsurprisingly, hasn’t had an issue making headlines. Take, for example, his comments about Ben Simmons and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
When discussing Simmon’s shooting failures during the Philadelphia 76ers’ second-round series, Pippen drew a parallel to Giannis’ game. While he did throw a little shade at the Greek Freak’s shot, the former Chicago Bulls star also offered an astute X-Ray into Antetokounmpo’s success.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is an incredible athlete with a less-than-ideal jump shot
As his nickname suggests, Giannis is a naturally-gifted athlete capable of doing just about anything he wants on the basketball court. If he has one Achilles heel, however, it’s his shooting touch.
While a cursory glance at his field goal percentage doesn’t reveal any major issues, Antetokounmpo’s three-point percentage provides a truer depiction of his issues. Over the entirety of his career, the Bucks star is only converting 28.7% of his attempts from behind the arc. He’s also been attempting more long-ranger jumpers in recent years than he did during his early days in the Association.
Free throws have also been a sore spot for Giannis. Even before his lengthy routine began drawing the ire of opposing fans, the Greek Freak struggled to convert his foul shots. During his eight years in Milwaukee, he’s never shot more than .770 from the line and throws up more airballs than you’d think a two-time NBA MVP should.
While neither of those issues have torpedoed his career — Giannis is an incredible athlete and hasn’t had any issue using those gifts to become a star — those shooting woes are a source of frustration for Bucks fans. Given that Antetokounmpo can be virtually unstoppable in transition or on the low block, it can be maddening to see him camping out behind the three-point line or struggling to convert his free throws.
Scottie Pippen noted Giannis’ poor shooting but used it as part of a larger compliment
Antetokounmpo isn’t the only big-time NBA talent with a less-than-ideal shooting touch. During the 2021 postseason, Ben Simmons also made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
During a recent GQ interview, Pippen grouped those two stars together. While that might seem like an insult to Giannis, the former Chicago Bulls star used Simmons as a way to highlight a strength in the Greek Freak’s game.
“[Shooting is] Giannis’ weakness, too. But, Giannis don’t mind being humiliated,” Pippen explained. “That’s the difference between him and Ben Simmons. Giannis will go to the free-throw line and shoot two f—ing airballs and come right down the court the next time and try and dunk on you. If Ben Simmons miss a free throw, he gonna start passing it before he get to the free-throw line on the other end. He didn’t even wanna cross half court with the basketball because he was so afraid of being humiliated going to that foul line. That’s why he didn’t try to make that dunk at the end of the game.”
Scottie Pippen’s observation is similar to something that Kobe Bryant once said
While Pippen may have been a bit blunt on Simmons and Antetokounmpo’s shooting struggles, he wasn’t the first star to raise the topic of playing without fear of humiliation.
As director Gotham Chopra once recounted to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard, Kobe Bryant shared a similar observation while watching Deron Williams play for the Nets. While the guard struggled from the floor on that given night, the Lakers’ star noticed something other than the fact that he didn’t convert a single shot.
“Deron Williams went like 0-for-9,” Chopra recalled. “I was like, ‘Can you believe Deron Williams went 0-9?’ Kobe was like, ‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you’ve just now lost confidence in yourself.’”
Despite his best offseason efforts, Antetokounmpo is yet to develop a deadly long-range jump shot. If his on-court performances are any indication of his self-confidence, though, that reality hasn’t made a difference. When push comes to shove, the Greek Freak isn’t going to beat himself; he’ll keep shooting or, more accurately, dunking for as long as the Bucks remain alive.
Given his incredible talent, that willingness to keep plowing ahead, even in the face of potential embarrassment, might be enough to power Milwaukee to the Larry O’Brien Trophy. At that point, Giannis would get the ultimate last laugh.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference