Between 1990 and 1998, the Chicago Bulls won six NBA championships, in arguably the greatest run in North American sports history. In fact, the only two years the Bulls didn’t win the title was when Michael Jordan tried his hand at baseball.
The run was spearheaded by Jordan – arguably the greatest basketball player of all time – but that level of success wouldn’t have been possible without a complimentary No. 2; the Robin to his Batman – in this instance, that was Scottie Pippen.
The key roles played by ‘His Airness’ and Pippen in Chicago’s success featured prominently in “The Last Dance” on Netflix – the acclaimed documentary series detailing Jordan’s time with the franchise, in particular, his final year with the team in the 1997/98 season.
However, speaking on his former Bulls teammate Stacey King’s podcast ‘Gimme the Hot Sauce’ on Friday, Pippen described Jordan as a “horrible player.”
“I’ve seen Michael Jordan play before I came to the Bulls. You guys have seen him play … He was horrible to play with. It was all 1-on-1, shooting bad shots. All of a sudden, we become a team and we start winning. Everybody forgot who he was. He was a player who was really not at the top of his category. It was scoring.”
CNN has reached out to both Jordan’s representatives and the Charlotte Hornets, the team which Jordan owns, for comment.
Jordan played three seasons with the Bulls before Pippen was drafted to Chicago. In the 1986/87 season, Jordan averaged 37.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.
Pippen appeared to double down on his comments and his own impact in the league a day after his podcast appearance in an Instagram post with a picture of himself during his younger days accompanied with the caption: “From humble beginnings to 6 championships, 2 gold medals, Hall of Fame, and leading the Bulls franchise with the most playoff wins. Here’s to the unsung heroes… Cheers!”
In the interview with King’s podcast, Pippen also dished out high praise to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James – the player whom many debate is Jordan’s equal, if not his superior.
“LeBron will be the greatest statistical guy to ever play the game of basketball,” Pippen said. “And there’s no comparison to him. None. So does that make him the greatest player to ever play the game?”
Jordan hasn’t commented before on Pippen’s angst towards him, but according to sports journalist Jackie MacMullan on the ‘Hoop Collective’ podcast after a chat the two had had for MacMullan’s own podcast, Jordan appeared surprised by recent remarks.
“I don’t think he was particularly thrilled with the blowback from ‘The Last Dance’ and some of the things that came back at him,” MacMullan said. “I think some of it flummoxed him a little bit to be honest.”
Pippen’s past feelings about No. 23
Pippen, a Hall of Famer, hasn’t been afraid of expressing his feelings towards Jordan in the past either. Shortly after the release of “The Last Dance,” Pippen said he “was nothing more than a prop” in the 10-part docuseries.
“They glorified Michael Jordan while not giving nearly enough praise to me and my proud teammates,” Pippen wrote in his memoir, ‘Unguarded.’ “Michael deserved a large portion of the blame. The producers had granted him editorial control of the final product. The doc couldn’t have been released otherwise. He was the leading man and the director.
He added: “Even in the second episode, which focused for a while on my difficult upbringing and unlikely path to the NBA, the narrative returned to MJ and his determination to win. I was nothing more than a prop. His ‘best teammate of all time,’ he called me. He couldn’t have been more condescending if he tried.
“Each episode was the same: Michael on a pedestal, his teammates secondary, smaller, the message no different from when he referred to us back then as his ‘supporting cast.’ From one season to the next, we received little or no credit whenever we won, but the bulk of the criticism when we lost.
“Michael could shoot 6-for-24 from the field, commit five turnovers, and he was still, in the minds of the adoring press and public, the Errorless Jordan. … Now, here I was, in my mid-50s, 17 years since my final game, watching us being demeaned once again. Living through it the first time was insulting enough.”
Pippen’s recent comments, however, are a change from statements he’s made in the past about comparisons between Jordan and James.
“Michael Jordan was the greatest to ever put on shoes and play in our game. No doubt about it,” Pippen said in 2018 on ESPN.
“I’m always asked to compare him to LeBron. I try to make the best of it. But really the comparison shouldn’t ever be made. They both play two different positions. The way LeBron James plays, Michael Jordan was never asked to play that way because I took that away from him. I was the point forward. I was the facilitator. Michael Jordan was a scorer. He was a defender. He played the game as complete as LeBron James did when he needed to. But he was asked to score the basketball and that’s what he was great at.
“And there’s no game that I would ever play in and pick LeBron James over Michael Jordan. Not if I’m trying to win. I’m not going to give up my teammate who I won six championships with and go and start fishing in a pond thinking I’m going to catch a bigger and better fish.”
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