Look, I’ve been there before.
There have been moments throughout my life in which I’ve held contempt in my heart and wished well-timed brain aneurysms on my worst enemies. I’ve fallen out with exes, beefed with family members, cussed out cashiers at the Jamaican spot who refuse to give me extra napkins and barked on white people who fail to adhere to the rules of personal space or proper hallway traffic (they’re equally terrible at both). But with experience comes age, and with age comes wisdom. And in my quest to become a better me, I’ve learned that some shit you just gotta let go in order to protect your peace and move forward in life.
This brings us to Scottie Pippen.
Ever since ESPN’s riveting docuseries, The Last Dance, momentarily cured us of our pandemic blues last April, the six-time NBA champion has been on a crusade to besmirch Michael Jordan’s good name—with some complimentary smoke for their “racist” former coach, Phil Jackson.
Pippen was reportedly “pretty livid” with his portrayal in the flick, which chronicles the conclusion of the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty during their 1997-98 season. And instead of venting to a therapist to help him build a bridge and get over it, the seven-time NBA All-Star has made it a point to speak out against the film and his role within the team to former teammate Dennis Rodman’s dismay.
“The players were a little upset because they felt Michael was throwing them under the bus,” Rodman told Good Morning Britain last summer. “Mentally, I don’t think they were strong enough to handle that, because Phil Jackson is a laid-back coach. Michael is more like, ‘I’m going to do it, watch me be famous.’ I didn’t care because I was already famous.”
Well, perhaps eager to exact some form of revenge, Pippen is now peddling a new memoir, Unguarded—which drops Nov. 9—in which he insists that he and Jordan were never close and have kept that same energy to this day, that Jordan would’ve never become the cultural icon he is today if it wasn’t for the sacrifice of Pippen and his teammates, that the Bulls ruined a perfectly good thing, and that The Last Dance was some Grade-A bullshit.
How do I know all this? Because Pippen was kind enough to provide GQ with some pre-release excerpts and my nosey ass read that shit. (It’s my job, dammit.)
“Michael was determined to prove to the current generation of fans that he was larger-than-life during his day—and still larger than LeBron James, the player many consider his equal, if not superior,” Pippen writes. “So Michael presented his story, not the story of the ‘Last Dance,’ as our coach, Phil Jackson, billed the 1997–98 season once it became obvious the two Jerrys (owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause) were intent on breaking up the gang no matter what happened.”
Pippen then goes on to blast the film for being hyper-focused on Jordan’s contributions and exploits, courtesy of candid interviews and interwoven archival footage—“On and on it went, the spotlight shining on number 23”—before dragging His Airness for treating him like a supplementary contributor.
“I was nothing more than a prop,” he writes about the film. “ [Jordan] 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 5 turnovers, and he was still, in the minds of the adoring press and public, the Errorless Jordan.
“Now here I was, in my mid-fifties, seventeen years since my final game, watching us being demeaned once again. Living through it the first time was insulting enough.”
Tell us how you really feel, good sir.
Now, that’s not to say that Pippen’s resentment isn’t warranted. I couldn’t imagine what it must’ve been like playing in the shadow of arguably the greatest professional athlete ever while the entire free world heaped praise upon that man like he accomplished every win and every championship by himself. That has to be infuriating. But this scorched-earth tour ain’t the way, family. Because instead of being properly recognized for his invaluable contributions to the Bulls dynasty, he’s tearing apart his own legacy while bolstering Jordan’s infallible reputation.
This ain’t the way.
Hopefully, one day they can bury the hatchet and resolve whatever issues persist between them—with Jordan making a public effort to do a better job of acknowledging the contributions of Pippen and their teammates. But in the interim, Pippen’s best bet is to find a dope therapist and let that hurt go. This burden he’s bearing isn’t harming anyone but himself and I’d hate to see one of basketball’s all-time greats impair his own legacy any further.