- If you’re having trouble keeping track of all the shade Scottie Pippen has thrown at Michael Jordan, you’ve come to the right place
- We put together a timeline of the most notable moments in the fairly one-sided feud between the former Chicago Bulls teammates
- Read more basketball news here
Virtually anyone who plays a team sport at some point in life will eventually share a roster with a person who possesses a level of talent that makes anyone who competes alongside or against them wonder why they even bother trying in the first place.
These gifted athletes can come in a variety of forms, whether it’s the fourth-grader who stands a foot taller than everyone else on the basketball court thanks to an early growth spurt or the high schooler who can run circles around defenders like he’s Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl without breaking a sweat.
It takes a particularly selfish person to complain about being teammates with one of the best players at your school or in your town. However, you’d need to be impressively self-absorbed to be salty about getting the chance to ride the coattails of someone who’s not just the most talented athlete to come out of their city, state, or even country but the most dominant force to ever play a particular sport.
Anyone who won a championship ring as a member of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s got the chance to do exactly that while reaping the benefits of being teammates with Michael Jordan. However, there’s one high-profile member of that dynasty who just can’t stop himself from attempting to rewrite basketball history despite being one of its most decorated victors: Scottie Pippen.
Pippen served as the Robin to Jordan’s Batman during their time together in Chicago (I guess Dennis Rodman is the Azrael in this analogy?), and the duo won six NBA titles during their eight seasons together on the Bulls. However, their relationship has soured in recent years as Pippen has slowly but surely transformed from one of Jordan’s most trusted allies to one of his fiercest critics.
To help you get a better understanding of exactly why this is the case, I decided to put together a timeline of their decades-long relationship; one that had its fair share of ups and downs before plummeting into the abyss where it currently rests.
So, without further ado, let’s go all the way back to the start.
1987-1998: A Duo Becomes A Dynasty
It didn’t take long for Jordan to live up to the hype that resulted in Chicago scooping him up with the third pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, as he averaged close to 30 points per game during an inaugural season that ended with him taking home Rookie of the Year honors.
Jordan also helped lead the Bulls to the playoffs during his first three seasons with the team, but after being eliminated in the first round each and every time, it was clear the franchise needed to get its premier player some help if it want to break through that ceiling.
He got some in 1987 when the front office orchestrated a trade to bring Pippen to Chicago after he was selected by Seattle with the fifth pick in the draft. With Jordan’s help, Pippen quickly matured into a formidable threat on both ends of the floor while his mentor was cementing himself as a generational superstar.
In 1991, they capped off their fourth season together in Chicago by securing the championship that marked the start of one of the most celebrated dynasties in the history of the NBA (one that came to an end when the dynamic duo disbanded for the second (and final) time after securing their second three-peat in 1998).
Jordan’s virtually unparalleled skillset made life an absolute nightmare for anyone who played against him, but as Steve Kerr learned the hard way when M.J. punched him in the face during an altercation at training camp, being his teammate didn’t make you immune to the irritation caused by the abrasive nature of his infamously competitive mindset.
Based on a few stories concerning their time on the Bulls, Jordan was more than happy to put Pippen in his place when he felt he was getting a bit too cocky (interestingly enough, the two men never actually played one-on-one). He was also less than sympathetic after Pippen missed practice following the death of his cat, and the man at the center of some legendary gambling stories also resorted to some unsavory tactics to fleece the forward when they bet on the result of virtual races on the Jumbotron during home games.
However, it doesn’t seem like Jordan and Pippen encountered any untraversable rifts during their time together. In fact, their time as teammates would’ve come to an end one year before it ultimately did if Jordan hadn’t stepped in to stop Jerry Krause from trading Pippen for Tracy McGrady during the 1997 NBA Draft, so it’s clear Jordan knew his longtime right-hand man was a valuable ally to have at his side.
Life After The NBA
The end of the Bulls dynasty marked the beginning of the twilight of the careers of the two players who were most instrumental in making it happen: Jordan retired a second time before finally hanging up his sneakers in 2003 following a stint with the Wizards, and Pippen spent some time in Houston and Portland before returning to Chicago for his final NBA season in 2004.
It’s hard to believe there was any bad blood between them based on what we know about their relationship in the years that followed. In 2009, Pippen attended Jordan’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame at a ceremony where Jordan was not shy about calling out the people who doubted him over the years.
Pippen was not only spared a chirp during that speech but received a shoutout from the legend when Jordan recalled all of the highlight videos of the six rings they won together, saying, “You never just saw me, you saw Scottie Pippen. Every championship I won.”
The following year, Pippen returned to Springfield for a ceremony of his own, where he asked Jordan to serve as the inductee tasked with welcoming new members to the hallowed basketball shrine.
In May 2011, Pippen rustled some jimmies when he implied LeBron James had the potential to surpass Jordan as the G.O.A.T. based on the trajectory of his career (a debate that still rages harder than ever more than a decade later). If Jordan took exception to that suggestion, he didn’t let it consume him, as he dropped in to surprise Pippen during the latter’s 47th birthday party during a night that ended with the two engaging in a dance-off to a track by Trey Songz.
So when did things take a turn for the worse? Based on how Jordan reacted when Pippen surprised him in a luxury suite at a game in 2016, the two were still on good terms a few years ago.
#Legends 🏀 pic.twitter.com/P3trD6QhZ3
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 1, 2016
However, that all changed thanks to a certain 10-part special that aired on ESPN.
April 2020: The Last Dance
After sports stopped being a thing following the onset of the pandemic, ESPN scrambled to figure out a way to keep people tuned in and found the perfect solution when it pushed up the premiere of The Last Dance, the documentary series chronicling Jordan’s final season with the Bulls.
It was a decision that worked out very well for the network, as The Last Dance became appointment viewing thanks to the many untold stories and juicy details viewers were treated to on a weekly basis. For the most part, Pippen (who was interviewed for the documentary) was painted in a pretty fair light, although he was criticized by Jordan for his “selfish” decision to attempt to renegotiate his contract prior to the season it explored.
When you consider Jordan was allowed to dictate which footage made the final cut and was paid a very handsome sum for participating in the documentary, it’s not exactly a secret that the series was a bit of a vanity project designed to cement his role as the superstar who deserved the bulk of the credit for Chicago’s dominance.
That reality is fairly hard to deny, but as we learned shortly after The Last Dance wrapped up, Pippen begged to differ.
May 2020: Pippen Fires Back
Pippen managed to bite his tongue while The Last Dance was airing, but that all changed following the final episode. Soon after, rumors concerning his displeasure with how he was portrayed began to swirl, with one source saying he was “livid” with the amount of criticism he felt he was subjected to.
To touch on a point I made above, playing with Jordan in his prime was akin to being one of the brothers of Jesus who get a brief mention in the Bible; there’s a certain frustration that comes with knowing you’ll perpetually live in his shadow regardless of what you achieve in life, but on the other hand, can you really complain about being tight with a guy who can provide you with a virtually limitless supply of wine (or, in Jordan’s case, rings)?
I apologize in advance for bringing a second ancient text into an article about basketball in as many paragraphs, but as Aristotle noted in Rhetoric, there’s nothing inherently bad about harboring a bit of jealousy—an emotion he the Greek thinker said is “both reasonable and belongs to reasonable men.”
The philosopher drew a line between jealously and envy by describing the latter as “pain at the good fortune of others,” and as you’ll soon see, it’s a deadly sin Pippen appears to be very guilty of.
A couple of months after The Last Dance ended, a reporter who’s spent the bulk of his career covering the Bulls said he’d heard Pippen’s relationship with Jordan was officially on the rocks thanks to the rift the documentary had caused.
Pippen attempted to set the record straight around a week later when he denied that report and said, “This documentary has not changed our relationship. We will be friends forever”—a statement that has aged about as well as a child actor with a crystal meth habit.
A few weeks before Festivus rolled around, Pippen confirmed he’d talked to Jordan to air his grievances concerning The Last Dance.
Based on his recap of the conversation, it seemed like the two men had buried the hatchet—but it wouldn’t take long for Pippen to head out to the yard with a shovel to dig it back up.
Shortly after the one-year anniversary of the finale of The Last Dance, Pippen revealed he was gearing up to issue a de facto response to the documentary in the form of the memoir Unguarded.
After the book was announced, he kicked off a media tour that would kick into high gear closer to its release to start to spill some tea of his own, including an interview where he accused Jordan of repeatedly cheating to win bets.
However, as we’d soon discover, that was just the tip of a massive iceberg of pettiness.
Unguarded was released on November 9th, and it came as no surprise that we were treated to a steady flow of fairly explosive excerpts in the weeks leading up to its publication.
In one preview released by GQ, Pippen donned his tinfoil hat and suggested Jordan wanted The Last Dance to serve as anti-LeBron propaganda in the hopes of swaying a younger generation of fans who previously viewed James as the G.O.A.T.
Pippen had previously accused Jordan of being selfish for leaving the Bulls to pursue a baseball career, and while that may have been a fairly reasonable criticism, the same can’t be said for the Scorching Take he issued in Unguarded where he essentially implied Jordan spent too long grieving the death of his father.
When Unguarded hit shelves, we were treated to an interview where Pippen downplayed the famous Flu Game (or, more accurately, the “Food Poisoning Game”) by pointing out he didn’t get the same amount of praise for playing with a herniated disk.
However, when it comes to picking his most controversial comment, it’s probably a tossup between Pippen’s claim that the Bulls won six rings in spite of Jordan and his assertion that His Airness ruined the entire game of basketball.
And that, my friends, brings us to the end of our journey (at least until Pippen’s literary agent tells him sales aren’t meeting expectations and he needs to drum up some additional publicity by figuring out how to rustle even more jimmies).