Pippen, Scottie


Pippen, Scottie
▪ 1999

      When the Chicago Bulls met the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 National Basketball Association (NBA) finals, Bulls forward Scottie Pippen staged perhaps the most courageous performance of his career. Back spasms kept him from playing most of the first half of the game, but his relentless defensive play in the second half helped his team win the game and clinch their sixth championship in eight seasons. Pippen's effort went largely unnoticed, however, as teammate Michael Jordan scored the winning basket. Such had been the case throughout Pippen's career; his finest moments were often overshadowed by his legendary teammate.

      Pippen was born on Sept. 25, 1965, in Hamburg, Ark. He played high school basketball but stood just 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) upon graduation. However, he had grown 5 cm (2 in) by the time he entered the University of Central Arkansas, where he initially served as manager of the basketball team before earning a spot on the roster. By his senior year, he stood 2 m (6 ft 7 in) and was the team's best player. In 1987 the Seattle SuperSonics selected Pippen in the first round of the NBA draft, then traded him to Chicago. A year later he was a regular in the Bulls' starting lineup. His size and strength served him well under the basket, while his ball-handling skills and shooting touch made him a threat from the outside. On defense, his long arms and quick footwork made him an imposing force.

      A reputation for coming up short in big games dogged Pippen's early career, however. In 1994 this criticism was revived after he refused to reenter a crucial play-off game with 1.8 seconds remaining because he disagreed with coach Phil Jackson's play-calling strategy. Despite the bad publicity, no one doubted that Pippen's stellar play—most notably his workmanlike approach to defense—was a key factor in the Bulls' championships. Jordan was often quoted as saying he would not play for the Bulls without Pippen on his team.

      Through the end of the 1998 season, Pippen had won six NBA titles, secured two Olympic gold medals (1992, 1996), and been named to the All-NBA First Team three times and to the All-Defensive First Team seven consecutive seasons. He had also participated in seven NBA All-Star Games, starting in six of them and winning the game's Most Valuable Player award in 1994. Pippen joined basketball's elite ranks in 1996 when he was honoured as one of the "50 Greatest Players in NBA History." He was perhaps the only man on that list to be considered the second-best player on his own team, but Pippen's future was likely to be bright even if Jordan followed through on his rumoured retirement.

ANTHONY G. CRAINE

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Universalium. 2010.

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