NBA

What Happened When Scottie Pippen Challenged Michael Jordan in Practice?

Scottie Pippen is synonymous with Michael Jordan thanks to his place as Jordan’s second fiddle through the Chicago Bulls’ historic run in the ’90s. While the two have spoken positively about each other and always kept it together when it mattered, it doesn’t mean they saw eye-to-eye all the time.

Former teammate Craig Hodges once told a story about the two and how they fed off of each other.

Michael Jordan as a teammate

Jordan was a good teammate as far as wins and losses went. He may have even been a good teammate in terms of motivation. However, MJ could be hard to get along with if he thought a teammate wasn’t working hard enough. Steve Kerr once learned this the hard way after Jordan punched him in the face during a particularly heated practice.

Jordan and Pippen’s relationship may have been different. Although Jordan was the definitive leader of the Chicago Bulls, it’s no mistake that all of his greatest successes came by Pippen’s side. Pippen could score, rebound, and do what needed to be done during Jordan’s monstrous performances — and he didn’t need the ball in his hands to do so.

Proving his worth, Pippen was an MVP candidate during Jordan’s brief stint in baseball. But when Jordan was there, the two were constantly at each other’s throats and motivating each other to do better. 

Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan clash

Jordan motivated himself through the competition on the other side. This could mean feeding off of perceived slights at the hands of other players. It could also mean making up his own, as he did with LaBradford Smith.

Jordan didn’t keep this to opponents, either. He could be notoriously picky when it came to his teammates’ efforts, and sometimes they returned the favor.

Hodges shared one particular time when Pippen decided to man up against Jordan and guard him with intensity. He was, after all, the Bulls’ defensive anchor, but this didn’t stop him from trying. The result was quite humorous, as Hodges explained.

“I can remember this time in, I think, 1990 when Scottie decided to challenge Michael one day in practice,” Hodges told The Washington Post. “Michael kind of backed up for a half-second. Then he proceeded, literally, to score on Scottie at will. It was incredible. I mean, Scottie Pippen even then was one of the best players in the league and Michael just rained points on him. Scottie had to step back and say, ‘Slow up, man.'”

What made Jordan Jordan?

Jordan never backed down from a challenge, whether it involved a teammate or an opponent. Had Jordan been just another star or even just another superstar, this may have worn on people.

The thing about Jordan, however, was that he constantly got results. In the day of social media and an increased focus on sportsmanship, this may not have worked, but his teammates speak highly of him to this day.

Jordan never set out to be the nicest guy in the NBA, nor did he set out to be a star. Jordan was a juggernaut from the earliest days. Now, over 20 years after his best years, stories continue to highlight just what it was that made Jordan different and why the world may never see another player like him.

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen | VINCENT LAFORET/AFP via Getty Images