During Game 6 of the 1998 Finals against the Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen played 25 minutes despite having a herniated disc. The Hall of Famer kept going back into the locker room for treatment and somehow summoned the strength to score eight points and dish out four assists. Michael Jordan, who played 43 minutes, scored a game-high 45 points and hit the game-winning shot to clinch the Bulls’ sixth championship.
In Game 5 of the 1997 Finals, Jordan played 44 minutes and scored 38 points despite dealing with food poisoning. Although the contest is called the flu game since everyone thought MJ was sick, the five-time MVP revealed in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries he ate pizza the night before and got sick from it.
Jordan is revered for playing with food poisoning, while not many people give Pippen credit for playing with a herniated disc. The Arkansas native, who has been taking shots at His Airness left and right over the past few months, doesn’t understand why fans don’t give him praise as they do with Jordan’s flu game.
Scottie Pippen: “I don’t see many bad-back games, but I do see flu games”
During an interview with Frank Isola on Sirus XM Radio, Pippen talked about how much pain he was in on June 14, 1998. The seven-time All-Star told Isola he probably wouldn’t have played in a Game 7 if the Bulls lost Game 6 and insinuated he should have gotten more credit for playing through a back injury than Jordan got for playing sick.
“I was done, pretty much,” Pippen said. “I struggled to pull it through in that game, and I suffered from it, still suffering from it, but I wouldn’t have played in a Game 7. I just wasn’t able to go. I knew on Saturday that I probably had one game left in me, and the start of that game, I got a dunk early in the game and got banged a little by [Karl] Malone. That really put me back on my heels throughout that whole game, where I was running back in the locker room, cortisone, whatever kind of medication I could get in me, heat pack, whatever to try to carry on, but I definitely was not able to play a Game 7 … Is it easier to play with a herniated disc or to play with the flu? I don’t see many bad back games, but I do see flu games.”
Pippen is upset at Jordan over how The Last Dance docuseries turned out. Before the documentary premiered in April 2020, the two Bulls legends always spoke glowingly of each other and were believed to be close friends.
However, everything changed after Pippen watched the documentary.
Scottie Pippen: I was upset with Michael Jordan because of The Last Dance
In his memoir, Unguarded, Pippen talked about why he was so furious at Jordan over The Last Dance. The two-time gold medalist thought the documentary would be more about the Bulls’ dynasty. Instead, it was mostly about glorifying Jordan.
“The final two episodes aired on May 17,” Pippen wrote. “Similar to the previous eight, they glorified Michael Jordan while not giving nearly enough praise to me and my proud teammates. Michael deserved a large portion of the blame. The producers had granted him editorial control of the final product. The doc couldn’t have been released otherwise. He was the leading man and the director … Each episode was the same: Michael on a pedestal, his teammates secondary, smaller, the message no different from when he referred to us back then as his supporting cast. From one season to the next, we received little or no credit whenever we won but the bulk of the criticism when we lost. Michael could shoot 6 for 24 from the field, commit 5 turnovers, and he was still, in the minds of the adoring press and public, the Errorless Jordan.”
It is tougher to play with a back injury than food poisoning, which is why Pippen only had eight points in his bad-back game and Jordan had 38 in his flu game. However, before The Last Dance came out, Pippen always praised Jordan for how well he performed in the flu game, further evidence that the doc deeply hurt him.
Pip in 2018: Michael Jordan was in his own world during flu game
In 2018, Pippen said Jordan was in his own world during the flu game and mustered up incredible energy and will to play and win the game for the Bulls. It’s staggering how Pippen sounded in 2018 compared to today. The Last Dance must have deeply affected him negatively.
The Bulls won six titles during the Jordan-Pippen era and never lost in the Finals. Both Hall of Famers, despite Pippen seemingly doing everything in his power to destroy Jordan, will be linked forever
Unfortunately for Pippen, the flu game will always be more popular than his bad-back game. No matter how much he bashes him in his book or interviews, Pippen will never be able to tarnish Jordan’s legacy.
RELATED: Scottie Pippen Enjoyed Playing Without Michael Jordan in 1993-94 Despite Getting Arrested and Being Destroyed for Refusing to Go Into a Playoff Game: ‘I Was Still Able to Enjoy It, I Know How That Sounds, but It’s True’