Scottie Pippen held nothing back on Michael Jordan in his new memoir, Unguarded. The six-time champion, who was upset at MJ over how ESPN’s The Last Dance turned out, bashed His Airness left and right in his book as his way of responding to the docuseries.
Pippen felt The Last Dance was more of a documentary about Jordan instead of the Chicago Bulls. The Arkansas native didn’t appreciate how the docuseries covered him, and he believed Jordan should have included what he said to Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone in Game 1 of the 1997 Finals.
Scottie Pippen: “What I said to Karl should have been in the documentary”
The Bulls defeated the Jazz in Game 1 of the 1997 Finals by a final score of 84-82. Jordan hit a game-winning buzzer-beater over Bryon Russell. That shot was covered in The Last Dance.
However, what wasn’t covered was what Pippen said to Malone with the game tied at 82.
“With 9.2 seconds to go, the score tied at 82, their star power forward, Karl Malone, aka the Mailman, was awarded two free throws. While Karl was on the line, I told him, ‘The mailman doesn’t deliver on Sunday.’ Karl, a 76 percent free throw shooter, missed both attempts,” Pippen wrote in his book. “On the next possession, Michael hit a jump shot at the buzzer to win the game. We went on to beat the Jazz in six for our fifth championship. What I said to Karl should have been in the documentary. You can bet that if MJ had uttered those words, the moment would have received the full treatment, the point being: Michael Jordan wasn’t just a great basketball player. He was a master at gamesmanship.”
Jordan averaged 32.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in the 1997 Finals. He won his fifth Finals MVP while shooting 45.6% from the field. Meanwhile, Pippen put up 20.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He led the Bulls in steals with 12, and his final steal sealed Chicago’s fifth championship.
However, Pippen’s steal in Game 6 wasn’t covered in The Last Dance. Instead, the docuseries focused on Jordan’s game-winning assist to Steve Kerr.
Scottie Pippen: There was nothing heroic about what Michael Jordan did
The media praised Jordan for passing the ball to Kerr in the final seconds of Game 6. However, Pippen wrote in his book that there was nothing heroic about what Black Jesus did.
“In Game 6 of the same series, I deflected an inbounds pass in the closing seconds when the Jazz had a chance to tie the game or take the lead,” Pippen wrote. “The steal was in the doc. Only no emphasis was given to who actually made it. The focus was on how unselfish Michael was by throwing the ball to Steve Kerr, who hit the winning jumper, just as Michael kept passing it to Paxson down the stretch in Game 5 of the 1991 Finals against the Lakers, when we captured our first championship. There was nothing heroic about what Michael did. Finding the open man was what Phil and Tex drilled into us from day one.”
Pippen clearly has some hard feelings toward Jordan. He thought The Last Dance failed to give his stellar career the treatment it deserved and was confused why Superman “felt the need to put me down to lift himself up.”
Pip: There is no excuse for what Michael Jordan did
Jordan had editorial control over The Last Dance, which is why Pippen was mad at him. In his book, the seven-time All-Star wrote that the documentary covered things that shouldn’t have been covered and left out things that should have been discussed.
“There is a great deal in the ESPN documentary that has no business being in there,” Pippen wrote. “And a great deal that should be in has been left out. Bottom line: the doc fails to give my Hall of Fame career the treatment it deserves. Coming from someone who was my teammate and, supposedly, my friend, there is no excuse. It was almost as if Michael felt the need to put me down to lift himself up.”
Jordan has not responded to any of Pippen’s barbs. He also hasn’t reached out to Pippen privately. It has undoubtedly been tough for Bulls fans to watch the two best players in franchise history not be on good terms after having a unique relationship in the ’90s.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference
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