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The Forgotten Jordan-less Scottie Pippen

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Scottie Pippen has, and always will be remembered as the sidekick in all of Michael Jordan’s 6 NBA finals runs. Jordan had the bigger accolades, winning 5 MVP awards, 10 scoring championships and becoming a 14x All-Star. Although Scottie Pippen’s accolades are less impressive, 8x All-Defensive First Team Member, 7x All-NBA Team Member and 7x All-Star, all while making the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, he still had a very monumental career. Many forget how elite of a player Pippen still was without having the likes of Michael Jordan as a teammate.

Central Arkansas (1984-1987)

Photo From Trading Card DB

Photo From Trading Card DB

Stats: 17.2 PPG 8.1 RPG 2.7 APG .563 FG%

The notion of Scottie Pippen not being a “great player” until he got to suit up with Jordan should all be put to rest after the effective career Pippen had in college at the University of Central Arkansas. Pippen was a 6’1 walk-on his freshmen year at Central Arkansas and was a point guard long before he started his growth spurt in college. By his sophomore year, he had grown to 6’5 and was averaging 18.5 points per game, along with 9.2 rebounds per game. Pippen’s junior year was very similar to his sophomore year, as he was the team’s leader in points and rebounds and he would be named to the NAIA All-American Team. Pippen would make the NAIA All-American Team once again his senior year with a very exceptional stat line of 23.6 points per game with 10 rebounds per game and 4.2 steals per game as he grew all the way up to 6’7. Being at Central Arkansas wouldn’t get most college stars many looks from NBA scouts, but Pippen made it inevitable for the NBA scouts to notice him with his amazing ability to play all 5 positions on the floor in college. NBA teams wouldn’t let the young, 6’7 point forward pass by in the draft, as the Seattle Supersonics (traded to the Chicago Bulls) would select Pippen with the 5th overall pick in the 1987 draft.

Chicago Bulls (1993-95)

asgpip

Photo From Sole Collector

Stats: 21.8 PPG 8.5 RPG 6.0 APG .479 FG%

After making 3 All-Star games, 2 All-NBA teams and winning 3 NBA titles, Pippen would have to take the defending champions under his wing after Michael Jordan announced his first retirement from the NBA in 1993. While Michael Jordan was playing minor league baseball, Scottie Pippen would have his best NBA season averaging 22 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game and 2.9 steals per game. Pippen showed how much of an elite player he could be in the league, even without 3x MVP Michael Jordan leading the Bulls. It would become clear that with 34 year old Dominique Wilkins having his last dominant NBA season, Scottie Pippen would take the crown as the best small forward in the NBA. Earning his first All-NBA 1st team honor and finishing 3rd in MVP voting, the Chicago Bulls would finish with only 2 less wins (55 wins) than the previous season and Pippen would bring them to the second round in a controversial series versus the New York Knicks.

The series would be tied 2-2 with the Bulls looking to go up 3-2 as they were leading the Knicks 86-85 with less than 10 second remaining. Hubert Davis would attempt a shot defended by Pippen that should’ve been a clear no call, as Hue Hollins would blow his whistle calling a shooting foul on Pippen with 2.1 seconds to go in the game. Davis would knock down both of his attempted free throws and the Bulls would respond with a failed inbound pass to go down in the series 3-2. The series would take an immediate shift, with Chicago knowing they can’t lose anymore games or they’ll go home and the Knicks knowing they can afford one more loss and still have homecourt advantage for game 7. The Bulls would show they weren’t finished yet and take it to game 7, but were almost outrebounded by the Knicks’s frontcourt alone (Chicago 44 Reb, Ewing & Oakley 37 Reb). The Knicks would take full advantage and finish off the Bulls by 10 points and make their way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Scottie Pippen would have another convincing season, leading the Bulls in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, being the second of 4 players to do so in a season (Dave Cowens, Kevin Garnett & LeBron James). He would earn another All-NBA First Team honor, as well as an All-Defensive First Team honor and finish first in steals in the NBA. Pippen could’ve possibly had his second consecutive season being in the top 10 in points per game in the NBA, if it weren’t for Michael Jordan making his way back into the NBA with 17 games left in the Bulls’s season. Chicago would make the playoffs as a 5th seed, but unfortunately go on to lose in the second round once again, this time to the Shaquille O’neal led Magic in 6 games.

Houston Rockets (1998-1999)

rockpip

Photo From Pintrest

Stats: 14.5 PPG 6.5 RPG 5.9 APG .432 FG%

With Michael Jordan making his second retirement, 6x champion Scottie Pippen would be involved in a trade to team up with Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley in Houston that would sound much better in theory than the results Pippen and these two former MVPs would have. All of them being past their primes at ages 33+, they would still manage to lead the Rockets to the 5th best record in Western Conference, but Pippen (14.5 PPG) would fall to Shaquille O’neal for a second time in 4 games versus the Los Angeles Lakers. Since it was clear that the chemistry was not there for the Rockets with their elderly lineup, Pippen would demand a trade and end up in Portland with the Trail Blazers.

 

Portland Trail Blazers (1999-2003)

Scottie Pippen #33

Photo From Gold in Auctions

Stats: 11.4 PPG 5.3 RPG 5.0 APG .440 FG%

As the 1999-2000 season approached, it was clear that Scottie Pippen was no longer the scoring threat he once was (12.5 PPG). Being the starting small forward for the Trail Blazers, Pippen made sure the league knew he was still one of the premier defenders as he would make the All-Defensive Second team. Pippen would play along side Rasheed Wallace and Steve Smith to take the Blazers to a 59-23 record by playing his role and always being ready to step up for Portland. They would dominate in the first two rounds with only 2 losses to play in the Western Conference Finals against Shaquille O’neal and the Lakers. The series was back and forth through each game, until the Blazers looked like they were on their way to the NBA Finals with a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter of game 7. Pippen’s former coach, Phil Jackson had one of the NBA’s best duos in NBA MVP, Shaquille O’neal and young star Kobe Bryant, to give one of the best comebacks in NBA history and give Scottie Pippen’s Blazers the worst fourth quarter meltdown in NBA history.

The Blazers chemistry wouldn’t click that well again, dropping down 4 seeds to the 7 seed in the West. Pippen having another declining season (11.3 PPG), would still produce well as a veteran starter at 35 years old, even with a tendinitis in his elbow forcing him to miss 18 games. Pippen’s averages would remain the same and he would go on to miss 18+ games all of his last years with the Blazers. As if Pippen hadn’t had enough playoff losses to Shaq, he would unfortunately have to face the future 3-peating Lakers for the next two years in the first round and be swept both times. His last year in Portland would be no different than the last two, he would go on to average 10.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 4.8 APG along with a first round exit against the Dallas Mavericks in 2003.

Chicago Bulls (2003-2004)

bulpip

Photo From Ark Sports Hall of Fame

Stats: 5.9 PPG 3.0 RPG 2.2 APG .379 FG%

With Scottie Pippen on his last leg, it was only right to end his career where he won his 6 titles and had his best years of his 17 year career. Pippen would take a veteran role for the Bulls that was anything less of impressive since Pippen’s departure and Jordan’s retirement from Chicago. Scottie Pippen would face many injuries and only play 23 games throughout the season before retiring in 2004 and have career lows, but would receive nothing but love all season long from Chicago fans.

Scottie Pippen’s career is one that is highly underrated in the sports world. His titles are looked at as Jordan’s accolades, rather than his own, which is preposterous to say the least. Michael Jordan is one of the greatest players we will ever see in sports, but to diminish Pippen’s greatness only to enlarge Jordan’s is just specious and fraudulent. When those 90’s championship Chicago Bulls teams are brought up in history, it’s important to note that, yes, Jordan was without a doubt the best scorer on the team and in the league, but he held such a big haul offensively, that other players won’t ever be able to match. Even with Jordan’s charismatic skills, those couldn’t get him out of the first round alone (1-9 in the playoffs before teaming up with Pippen), Pippen was a bigger defensive presence than any other superstar comparable to him has ever had in their championship runs. If Pippen was just another great scorer and an average defender, the Bulls would run up the score, but continue to allow Karl Malone or Clyde Drexler, both who Scottie Pippen guarded in the finals, tear up the opposing team’s defender and run up the score as well.

Scottie Pippen played with his greatest teams while teamed up with Michael Jordan, but his success without Jordan must not be forgotten either. In Pippen’s 7 seasons without Jordan, he only missed the playoffs once. He has also managed to make one more conference finals appearance than Jordan, along with more playoff wins at 136 to Jordan’s 119. Pippen has made one more All-Defensive team than Jordan and continued to be a force in Jordan’s absence from the Bulls. Even when Pippen was in his 30’s, he managed to be a great contributor to 5 other playoff teams. Their success without eachother in the playoffs are both under .500 (Jordan 1-9, Pippen 20-23); even though Pippen’s is more superior to Jordan’s and it’s clear who was the leader of their championship teams, as cliche as it sounds, Jordan needed Pippen just as bad as Pippen needed Jordan. The old saying, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships,” applies more to the Bulls than any other championship team, Michael Jordan will always be the flashy guy who scored 63 points in a playoff game and hit the big last second shots to win; but Scottie Pippen was the defender that was able to put the nail in the coffin and make a stop in order to get the ball in Jordan’s hands in crunch time.

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About Juwan M. Davis

Editor/Writer for NBALEAD. Born and raised in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Living in Los Angeles. Minnesota Timberwolves fan. Twitter: @JuwanMalikDavis

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