The Hall of Fame forward has spent most of the last week in the media after all sorts of comments; yesterday, he doubled down on some and dropped a bombshell, but why is he doing all this?
Scottie Pippen is and has always been, synonymous with winning throughout most of his adult life thanks to his contributions to the game of basketball during his 17-year career in the NBA where he and Michael Jordan won six national championships with the Chicago Bulls.
Although, as of late, Pippen has taken his fair shares of L’s thanks to his statements regarding Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and now his former coach Phil Jackson who helped him win all those rings.
In case you have been shut in and taken away from a television or access to the internet I’ll fill you in on Pippen’s last few days:
On Thursday Pippen was featured in a GQ spread that revolved around the 7x-All-Star and his new bourbon called Digits, as well as his memoir that will be released later this year, but in the end, it would be the comments by Pippen about the current NBA season that would be the most damning and controversial thing to come out of the interview.
Pippen got onto the topic of Kevin Durant and his 48pts/9reb/6ast performance in the Brooklyn Nets’ Game Seven loss to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last week. He stated that Durant has a “cap to his talent” and that he doesn’t “know how to play team basketball when it [comes] down to it”.
He went on to compare two-time NBA Champion Durant with four-time NBA Champion LeBron James, saying “…James would’ve figured out how to beat them and he wouldn’t have been exhausted…LeBron ain’t KD, and KD ain’t LeBron. KD is a shooter…but he doesn’t have what LeBron has.”
This obviously started all sorts of conversations on national television, podcasts galore, and across all of the social media. Kevin Durant even responded (below) on Twitter, as he is known to do, with a clapback that was also prominent in sports media for the days following.
After his talk about Durant and James Pippen spoke about his own time in the NBA, specifically the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals when he was famously not on the court and, instead, 25-year old rookie Toni Kukoč took (and made) the game-winning shot against New York with only 1.8 seconds left on the clock.
Pippen stated that the decision to have Kukoč (a.k.a. the Croatian Sensation) take the final shot instead of him was a “racial move” by Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson “to give [Kukoč] a rise” even though it was Pippin’s first year without Michael Jordan and he was having an MVP-caliber season.
So Pippin’s article stirred up plenty of controversy and discussion for the following few days which should help him sell his book when it releases later this fall, right?
Well just to make sure, the two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner went on the Dan Patrick show yesterday to clarify some of his comments and to talk about his new book and new bourbon.
Patrick started off the show by asking Pippen about his views on Durant and James if they were in his era and vice-versa, then the famous radio/podcast host went into the ’94 playoffs game and that’s when the Bulls legend doubled down on his comments about his old coach:
Pippen then began speaking in third-person when referring to his ’93-’94 season and reaffirmed what he told GQ’s Tyler Tynes by stating that Jackson made Pippen stand out-of-bounds while Kukoč took the famous final shot because of an underlying racial motive:
“Wouldn’t you give Scottie Pippen one opportunity to get a last-second shot without Michael Jordan? Like, one year without Michael Jordan…can I get one shot? I’m doing all the dirty work…” Pippen said, “That was Scottie Pippen’s team. Scottie Pippen was on pace to be an MVP that year, right?”
Immediately after those statements, he started to speak on how Jackson and the late Kobe Bryant’s relationship was another area where the former Coach of the Year’s racial undertones were put on display, specifically based around his tell-all book The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul where he spoke on Bryant’s rape case and the circus that surrounded it during a pivotal season.
Host Dan Patrick tried to reel Pippen in and give him another chance to explain, or even to just better clarify, his comments on Jackson, “It feels like [Jackson] is disloyal, I don’t know if that makes him a racist,” Patrick said.
Pippen swiftly responded, “Well that’s your way of putting it out…I was in the locker room with him, I was in practices with him. You’re looking from afar.”
He also stated that the classic game-winner in the 1997 Finals, a major focal point in the Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance”, was originally planned around Jordan taking the final shot and that the only reason Steve Kerr ended up firing it from 15-feet out instead is that Jordan was “controlling the cameras” and that the widely-accepted G.O.A.T. of basketball was giving Kerr the final shot because “the cameras were working, basically, for Michael Jordan, not the Chicago Bulls”.
So here we are. After multiple bombshells, hot takes, and insight after insight into plays, games, and relationships that everybody thought they knew two narratives are being built around the ten-time All-Defensive player:
1) He’s ruining his reputation as a player, and NBA analyst, while simultaneously shifting blame and unnecessary attention on other people.
2) He’s telling it how it is for the first time in his life, exposing a possible underlying racist behavior in one of the most famous and well-received NBA coaches of all time. Not to mention sharing his side of the story, which was told in “The Last Dance” last year by Jordan (and somewhat by himself), to a further extent to show how important Pippen actually was.
Could this all be a ruse to help boost pre-orders of his memoirs? Or is he just blowing smoke to blow smoke and keep his name in the news?
No matter what the reason is it’s clear that Pippen has plenty to get off his chest 17 years after he has retired, more of which will likely be exposed in the coming weeks before his memoirs are released, and it’s going to be rather interesting seeing how some of the people he’s talking about respond.