Scottie Pippen has recently been in the news more than he had been in years. The NBA and Chicago Bulls legend first gave his controversial opinions on Kevin Durant and then later aired out some major problems he has with his former Bulls coach, Phil Jackson. Because of this, he has received a ton of pushback, and now one of the biggest sports media personalities has something to say: ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
Scottie Pippen said a Phil Jackson coaching decision was a ‘racial move’
It has been 27 years since the most infamous moment of Pippen’s career.
In Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks, Pippen refused to go into the game with 1.8 seconds left and the score tied at 102 apiece. Instead of giving Pippen the final shot with Michael Jordan pursuing a baseball career, Jackson had drawn up a play for rookie Toni Kukoc.
Kukoc sunk the shot to help the Bulls win, but Chicago lost the series to New York in seven games.
Pippen recently discussed that moment.
“I felt like it was an opportunity to give (Kukoc) a rise,” he said to GQ, per Sports Illustrated. “It was a racial move to give him a rise. After all I’ve been through with this organization, now you’re gonna tell me to take the ball out and throw it to Toni Kukoc? You’re insulting me.”
The six-time NBA champ later doubled down on the claim that Jackson’s decision was a “racial move.”
“Why would Toni, who was a rookie, get the last-second shot and you put me out of bounds? That’s what I mean ‘racial,’” Pippen said on the June 28 episode of The Dan Patrick Show.
Patrick later replied, “By saying ‘a racial move,’ then you’re calling Phil a racist,” and in response, Pippen said, “I don’t got a problem with that.”
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith called out Scottie Pippen
Smith appeared on the July 1 episode of his show, First Take, and he did not hold back on Pippen.
“I respect Scottie — six-time champion, all-time great player,” he said. “I think this is one of the stupidest, most idiotic things he’s ever said or done. … Twenty-seven years later, Phil Jackson’s a racist? The same Phil Jackson that coached you, that coached MJ? That coached guys like Bill Cartwright and B.J. Armstrong, and others, and Stacey King and all these guys? The same Phil Jackson that coached Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant?”
Smith then brought up how several players had problems with Jackson in the past. The ESPN personality said he even thought Jackson betrayed Kobe Bryant when he came out with his book, The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul.
“But I would never, ever think to call Phil Jackson a racist,” he said. “And I don’t know any player, I repeat, any player, who happens to be Black that played for Phil Jackson that would call him a racist. And for Scottie Pippen to do something like that is just inexcusable. It really, really is. It’s low; it’s really, really low.”
Smith continued later on in the segment: “When you say ‘racist,’ you better know what the hell you’re talking about, and you better know who the hell you’re talking about. … Just because you’re white and you happen to disagree with me or make me unhappy, or we don’t vibe in terms of our thinking does not make you a racist.”
Smith made it clear that he’s uncomfortable with Pippen’s comments, and he continued to reiterate the point that it has taken Pippen “27 years” to say this.
“No one has called him a racist, but Scottie Pippen just did after 27 years; that’s unconscionable, it really is,” Smith said.
Former players have also stood up for Phil Jackson
Smith isn’t the only one who has stood up for Jackson in light of Pippen’s comments.
“No, no,” NBA legend Reggie Miller said of the Kukoc final shot potentially being racially motivated while on the June 28 episode of The Dan Patrick Show. “See, I don’t agree with that. No, no, no, no. There’s plenty of times I’ve been a decoy on the Pacers team. There’s just times when that has to be the case because everyone assumes and knows the ball’s going to go to you. … The whole racial point, no, absolutely not. That, I don’t roll with.”
Robert Horry, who played for Jackson on the Los Angeles Lakers, also said he doesn’t think Jackson is a racist.
“I’ve played for Phil. I don’t think Phil is racist,” Horry said on the Big Shot Bob Pod podcast, per the New York Post. “He’s said some stuff before that kind of, I had to check him on it. For me, I don’t think he’s racist.”
No one knows why Pippen feels the way he does except for Pippen. Maybe there’s a justifiable reason, or perhaps he’s still frustrated that he didn’t get that shot 27 years ago. Hopefully, he’ll eventually give everyone a little more clarification.