Scottie Pippen made headlines for both the right and wrong reasons during the 1993-94 NBA season. Since Michael Jordan retired to play baseball, the small forward was the best player on the Chicago Bulls and had an incredible statistical season.
However, Pippen was also in the news for two negative things. Not only did he get arrested for having a loaded gun in plain view in his car, but the Bulls legend also refused to go into Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks.
In several interviews, Steve Kerr — who won three championships on the Bulls — has said he loved playing with Pippen and that the swingman was one of his favorite teammates of all time. However, the current Golden State Warriors head coach was stunned when Pippen sat out the final play against the Knicks on May 13, 1994.
Steve Kerr on Scottie Pippen: “He quit on us”
Pippen was angry at Phil Jackson for drawing up the game-winning play for Toni Kukoc instead of him in Game 3 against the Knicks in the 1994 playoffs. He refused to go into the game because he wanted to send a message to the Zen Master.
In Episode 7 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, Kerr talked about his emotions watching Pippen sit out on purpose. It was a shocking scene since no one thought Pippen would ever refuse to play.
“We don’t know how to act because Scottie’s one of our favorite teammates, one of our favorite people in the world,” Kerr said. “He quit on us, and we couldn’t believe that happened. It was devastating.”
Kukoc made the game-winning shot at the buzzer in Game 3. In The Last Dance, Pippen said he wouldn’t change what he did if he had a chance to do it all over again, and the Hall of Famer explained why in more in detail in his book, Unguarded.
Scottie Pippen: “There was one person I was angry with”
Pippen wrote that he felt humiliated and disrespected when Jackson told him to pass the ball to Kukoc, who was in his first season with the Bulls in 1993-94. The six-time champion still believes he made the right move by sitting out all these years later.
“The most humiliating part was Phil telling me I would throw the ball in bounds,” Pippen wrote. “At least when you’re on the floor, you can be a decoy. The Knicks would have put two defenders on me. Someone would have gotten a good look. By not going back in the game, I did the right thing not just for myself and my pride. Also for the players who would come after me. Who, one day, might very well find themselves in the same position.”
The Bulls wound up losing to the Knicks in seven games. Pippen tried to get traded in the summer of 1995, but Chicago never budged, which turned out to be the right move.
Bulls won three more rings in 1996, 1997 and 1998
Jordan returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season. Chicago won three more championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998 before the roster was broken up in the summer of 1998.
Kerr went on to win two more championships with the San Antonio Spurs to finish his career with five rings. He’s also won three titles as head coach of the Warriors.
Meanwhile, Jordan and Pippen are no longer believed to be on good terms after The Last Dance. However, nothing can change how dominant they were together as a duo. During the Jordan-Pippen era, the Bulls went 6-0 in the Finals and three-peated twice.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference