Not only was Pippen tall and athletic, but he was also an intelligent player who understood defensive coverages like the back of his hand. The seven-time All-Star’s value extended beyond the court, too, and he was never afraid to tell his teammates to do things on defense despite Phil Jackson instructing them not to.
Scottie Pippen told Bill Wennington to double a player in the post even though Phil Jackson said not to
In his book called How The GOAT Was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls, Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein looked back on the time when Pippen told Bill Wennington to double a player in the post despite Jackson’s standing order to the contrary. When the Zen Master called out Wennington in a film session, Pippen spoke up (Wennington’s quote is from his 2004 memoir, Bill Wennington’s Tales From the Bulls Hardwood).
“Wennington recalls one film session in which Jackson jumped on Wennington for committing a Bulls defensive sin: double-teaming in the post. Wennington was playing power forward next to Luc Longley, and Pippen — also on the court — told Wennington to double despite Jackson’s standing order to the contrary,” Silverstein wrote. “When Jackson let Wennington have it, Pippen told Phil that he, Scottie, gave Wennington the instruction: ‘That sort of thing didn’t happen just once,’ Wennington said in his book. ‘It happened several times, and not just with me, but with all the players on the team. … He had taken the role of a leader on the floor, and he was defending his decisions to Phil in our film meeting. ‘ “
Michael Jordan was the best player on the Bulls during the dynasty years. However, Pippen was the do-it-all small forward who tied the team together in many ways, and Jackson knew how valuable that was.
Phil Jackson: Scottie Pippen is the most unselfish superstar in the game of basketball
Jackson called Pippen the most unselfish superstar in basketball during a 1995 interview with Sam Smith. The Arkansas native did all the dirty work for the Bulls and always filled up the stat sheet.
“I can only say again this is the most unselfish superstar in the game of basketball,” Jackson said about Pippen. “He’s a guy we asked five or six years ago not to worry about points, get assists and rebounds, and the wins and points will take care of themselves. This year I want him to be a leader and fill in, get assists, find the guys who have to score, play defense, maybe score when a 6-foot guy is playing him. But I still think Scottie will lead this team in rebounding, more or less, and assists.”
Jordan may be the greatest player in NBA history, but there is zero chance the Bulls win six championships without Pippen. After all, MJ never won a playoff series without Pip.
Bulls legend was so versatile
During the Bulls’ championship run, Pippen ranked second on the team in scoring, second in rebounds, second in minutes played, first in assists, and first in steals. From 1990-91 to 1997-98, the basketball icon averaged 20.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.2 steals while shooting 48.4% from the field.
The Bulls three-peated twice in the ’90s and went undefeated in the Finals. While Jordan won all six Finals MVPs, he knows he wouldn’t have captured six rings without Pippen, one of the top two-way players ever.
“I would never be able to find a tandem, another support system, another partner in the game of basketball like Scottie Pippen,” Jordan said in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries. “He was a pleasure to play with. He helped me so much in the way that I approached the game, the way I played the game. Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen. When everybody says, well, I won all these championships, but I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen and, you know, that’s why I consider him my best teammate of all time.”
Pippen finished his NBA career with averages of 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 2.0 steals. Along with his six titles, he also won two gold medals in the Olympics and the 1993-94 All-Star Game MVP.