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Scottie Pippen wasn’t a fan of The Last Dance, and has spent the last year and a half making that abundantly clear. It’s not a surprise that Pippen wasn’t pleased to see what was promised as a documentary about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls with unseen footage from practice become a 10-hour project highlighting the legacy of Michael Jordan and, even in episodes that dove more into his history and Dennis Rodman’s, Jordan was always front and center.
Pippen’s feelings of being overlooked on those Bulls teams aren’t new, but The Last Dance becoming a cultural touchstone for an entirely new generation seems to have set him off more than ever before. With a new book coming out, Pippen has been on a press tour that has, very often, featured him speaking about his frustration with the media’s portrayal of Jordan as the man carrying the Bulls to championships and lifting up his work above the team’s.
— GQ Sports (@GQSports) November 9, 2021
While Pippen is right to point out that those championship teams were, indeed, a team effort, the narrative about Jordan isn’t something concocted out of nowhere — Jordan averaged 32.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game in the playoffs from 1991 to 1998. He was the catalyst and the face of the team, and if anything, the fact that the likes of Kukoc, Pippen, and Rodman being Hall of Famers is indicative of appropriate recognition of their contributions to those teams.
The slights Pippen feels also go into individual game performances, most notably him playing through a back injury in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, which he explained on Tuesday how he feels that should be remembered similar to Jordan’s legendary Flu Game because what he was going through was worse.
"I don't see many bad-back games, but I do see flu games." @ScottiePippen compares his back injury against the Jazz to Michael Jordan's infamous "Flu Game." Hear more on @SiriusXMNBA. https://t.co/vZSAKED5NR pic.twitter.com/65Q21Dgig2
— SiriusXM (@SIRIUSXM) November 9, 2021
There is no doubt that playing through a back injury is incredibly difficult, and Pippen’s efforts to help the Bulls close out the Jazz were critical, particularly on the defensive end. Still, it’s simply never going to be a game that sticks in the minds of fans because the way he helped was by his sheer presence, not necessarily his statistical impact. Pippen had 8 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in Game 6, helping in whatever way he could. But that Game 6 is remembered for Jordan, who had 45 and four steals, including the closing stretch with key buckets and steals, most notably the dagger of Bryon Russell.
It is fascinating to watch Pippen claw for the respect he feels he’s due for his work on those Bulls teams, which seems in part to revolve around people not necessarily having a signature performance they point to and elevate with the all-time greats in postseason history. He is regarded as one of the best players in NBA history, landing on the NBA at 50 and 75th anniversary teams without a hint of debate. He is a Hall of Famer and deservedly so. He just happened to play with the man most consider the greatest of all time, someone who has more iconic individual performances than just about anyone else.