Scottie Pippen always proved the underdog could win no matter the circumstance. Growing up, the former Chicago Bulls star was that underdog. The youngest of 10 children, Pippen never saw himself as poor, even though as many as 12 family members managed to squeeze into a two-bedroom house.
Pippen toughed it out. He found a way. Then, a pair of family tragedies hit, and Pippen was forced to grow up quickly. He recently gave credit to his parents for helping him overcome the devastation.
Scottie Pippen suffered through two significant family tragedies as a youngster
Before Pippen entered high school, his father, who worked in a local mill, suffered a stroke and had to retire on disability. Pippen’s brother, Ronnie, was paralyzed during an incident in his gym class. Pippen went from being the baby to having to help take care of his father and big brother.
Pippen recently touched on his childhood during an interview on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. He credited his parents after Noah asked what it was that gave Pippen the fortitude to get through those family tragedies.
“I would say it was my parents,” Pippen said Thursday. “Just kind of seeing the life they had taken on. It wasn’t something that they were prepared for. By (no) means, could we afford to have, you know, two disabled people living in one household.
“But we were able to pull through it, through the struggles and the ups and downs. We made the best with what we had.”
Scottie Pippen carried what he learned from his parents through college and the NBA
Pippen wasn’t offered an athletic scholarship for basketball, even at the University of Central Arkansas, where he played for four years. At first, he would have been fine just being part of the squad as a team manager.
“Scottie was about 6-1, about 135 pounds,” Arch Jones, then an assistant at Central Arkansas, told The Chicago Tribune in 1995. “His high school coach called us and said he had a young man with the potential to be a college player. So we looked at him and said we’d help him with a work-study grant if he’d be the team manager.
“You know, sweeping up the gym, washing the clothes for the players, bringing out and picking up the equipment, picking up the balls.”
Pippen put things in perspective. He said he would’ve been fine with that because he’d still be close to home and around his family. He would have simply had to make a minor financial adjustment.
“I just like to be around family,” said Pippen in the Tribune article. “As I look back, I have to say growing up was fun, not a problem at all. And I knew if I didn’t make it in the NBA, I’d probably be (working), maybe in an athletic department somewhere. I’d just have a smaller TV.”
Pippen’s father died in 1990, and it helped him grow even more
Pippen got the dreaded phone call during the Bulls’ 1990 playoff run. His father, Preston Pippen, died. Although he didn’t realize it at the time, his father’s death helped put Scottie’s priorities in order.
”The things that have happened for me, to me, have helped me grow up,” Pippen told The Chicago Tribune in 1992. ”Especially the passing of my father. That was something that took me to another level of growing and maturing. That`s when I started to be more of a man.
”I always help take care of my family. But it was more than that. At the point when I lost my father, it really made me want to be like a father and be like my father. It was a real turning point for me because it helped me mature-it made me think about being responsible because I wasn`t the only one I had to think about.
“I realize I had to become a more responsible person, and I also realized I could become as good as I wanted to in this game if I put forth the effort. And when I cheated, I wasn`t cheating anyone but myself.”
Pippen, of course, went on to win six NBA titles and become a seven-time All-Star — all through hard work, determination, and a strong upbringing from his parents.