With the Chicago Bulls dynasty, there has always been a clear hierarchy of talent: There was Michael Jordan, then Scottie Pippen, and everyone else. Many have made the argument that Jordan needed Pippen and Pippen could NEVER have won without Jordan. Somehow, Michael Jordan's legacy separated itself from Scottie Pippen's and he has been defined by most as the greatest player of all-time, but Scottie Pippen's legacy is often attached to Jordan's labeling him as 'Robin' to Jordan's 'Batman.' The question remains: How great was Scottie Pippen and what is his legacy?
Statistically, Scottie stacks up well: 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.2 ast, .8 bpg, 2.0 spg, 47% FG, 32% 3pt, 70% FT. 6-Time NBA Champion, 7-Time NBA All-Star, NBA 1994 All-Star Game MVP (along with the worst haircut and brightest shoes in NBA All-Star History), 3-Time All-NBA First Team, 2-Time All-NBA Second Team, 2-Time All-NBA Third Team, 8-Time All-NBA Defensive First Team, 2-Time All-NBA Defensive Second Team, named one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players, 2 Olympic Gold Medals ('92 & '96), and his jersey was retired by the Bulls.
The accomplishments speak for themselves: Scottie was truly an amazing basketball player. As a kid growing up, I knew several things about my beloved Bulls: 1) Michael Jordan was the best player on that team 2) Bill Cartwright was worthless and 3) I would love to be like Mike, but I want to play like Scottie. As an aspiring basketball player, I marveled at Scottie Pippen's game. Perhaps it's because I fell in love with basketball when Paxson made the game-winning 3-pointer against Phoenix and by that time Jordan was retired and playing baseball. Maybe it's because the first NBA game I ever went to was at Rupp Arena, with the Pippen-led Bulls taking on Jamal Mashburn and the lowly Mavericks. But as I reflect back on watching Pippen play, it's because he played basketball the right way. He was selfless, he was athletic, he played hard on both ends of the court, he had an arrogance and a humility about him, he carried himself with dignity. He could take over the game with long scoring stretches or timely defensive plays, he could make an amazing pass or pick someone's pocket. He frequently carried the stretches when Jordan would rest and lead the second unit for the Bulls. Pippen's game just complemented the team perfectly. He was competitive and he understood what Bill Simmons' calls "The Secret" (see: The Book of Basketball). He was willing to sacrifice his stats to win championships. Yet somehow he gets lost in the discussions of great players in NBA history.
Why is this? Is it because his stats with Houston, Portland, and his final stint with Chicago are lackluster at best? (11 ppg, 1.5 spg, .52 bpg, 4.68 apg, 5.08 rpg, 42% FG, 31% 3PT, 73% FT) Was it because he enters competitions like the Shooting Stars Competition or playing Celebrity B-Ball with Justin Beiber on All-Star Weekend?