The end of his legendary career perhaps didn’t go as planned, and we’ve read plenty about his failed business ventures since he retired, but Scottie Pippen has been remembered fondly recently thanks to his induction in to the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame. Could he have done it without Michael Jordan or even Phil Jackson? Who knows, probably not. But those were the cards he was dealt and he sure made the most of them. And who knows, maybe MJ and the Zen Master needed Pippen just as much as he needed them. Jackson certainly sounds appreciative and congratulatory about Pippen’s extraordinary playing career, and he said as much just yesterday in a joint interview.
Pippen and Jackson joined Waddle & Silvy on ESPN Radio in Chicago to talk about Pippen’s recent induction into the Hall of Fame, Jackson’s favorite moments from Pippen’s career, Pippen’s remarkable ability to defend multiple positions, what he remembers about Pippen and MJ practicing and making each other better, and his thoughts on the recently assembled roster of stars down in Miami.
Jackson: “Congratulations Scottie, I watched the Hall of Fame induction with rapped attention in my home in Montana. I was moved to tears with a couple of the shots they had of you remembering all the times we had together. I thought it was a great ceremony, and you gave a great talk. Congratulations again.”
Pippen: “Thanks Phil, I appreciate it”
On if Phil has a favorite moment from Pippen’s career:
Jackson: “Well you know, there were a couple of them that stand out. And one of them was the game in which Michael had suffered – I don’t know whether it was altitude sickness in Salt Lake – and we were up actually in Park Lake City, Utah, and Scottie had to kind of take over, playing defense for Michael, and also getting the ball into him. And after the game, you know, there is so much congratulations that went on, and I always kind of remember Scottie and Michael during that game supporting each other in that process. The other thing that I remember probably most about Scottie was a sequence which he had to direct the defense. Scottie was our voice on defense. He had, as you can tell, a tremendous voice. He has a deep resonating voice that could be heard on the court. And he also had the ability to talk to his teammates, and send them and direct them. But we had to trap Stockton when he got over half court, and try to get the ball out of his hands. And he had to come from the farthest place on the court to trap with either Steve Kerr if he was guarding Stockton, or Ronnie Harper if he was guarding Stockton, so we could get the ball out of his hands. And then he had to get back to the other side of the court once Stockton got the ball out of his hands. I can remember him calling and directing the team during those situations. Those are the things that made Scottie not only a great player, but also a great team leader that was so important to our basketball club.”
Jackson on Pippen being able to defend a wide variety of players and positions:
“Well, you know, Scottie was like the utility defender. Whoever we needed between one and three to defend against, we used Scottie. Although we had a variety of guys, Johnny Bach our assistant coach used to call him Doberman. Send the Dobermans out there to get him. He and Michael would go out there and attack a player on the defensive end of the court, which was always such a good asset for a basketball club to be aggressive defensively. And Scottie was one of those players that had a tremendous knack for getting the understanding of the team that we were playing against, and being in the right place at the right time.”
Jackson on if Pippen and MJ ever went at it during practice:
“Well, one of the ways we got competitive action on the court was to put the two of them on different teams and let them elevate the game in practice a little bit. We would do that maybe once a month or twice a month just to get the competitive action on the court. But one of my favorite memories of Scottie was when he came out of the locker room, the coaches’ locker room, and this is at the old multiplex when we were practicing at the multiplex. Offices were just off the court, and Scottie was teaching Michael footwork on the court. And he could dunk the ball left-handed which Michael couldn’t do. So Michael said ‘come on, teach me how to make this move.’ And so Scottie was showing him his footwork to be able to get to the basket and dunk with his left hand. So those are some of the things that I think grew the team and made the team as good as they were, and as dominant as they were.”
Jackson on if he thinks the Miami Heat is the best team assembled:
Well, they have got great talent, there’s no doubt about the talent that they have. But you know, talent doesn’t always win and the teams that have talent don’t always win. The team that shows the best teamwork is able to win, and we think we have established something. If they can unite and build quickly, they might be able to do it. I always refer back to a time when Wilt Chamberlain was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, and that put Baylor, West and Chamberlain together as the three highest scoring players in NBA history. And they never won a championship together in the four years they were together. But they got to the Finals a couple of times, but never won. So it’s not always scorers or talent, but it’s teamwork that does it. Scottie congrats again.”
Listen here to Jackson and Pippen with Waddle & Silvy on ESPN Radio Chicago (interview begins at 1:55:00 mark)