Scottie Pippen was one of the most talented superstars to play in the 1990s. Playing for the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan, Pippen earned his nickname “Robin” from being the other half of the greatest duo the NBA has ever seen. Jordan was always an elite player but he never was able to reach the Finals until Pippen was on his team.
Pippen was born in a small town in Arkansas, he wasn’t even recruited to play college ball, instead, he became a member of the University of Central Arkansas team by walking on as the equipment manager. Over a single summer, he hit a massive growth spurt, growing from 6’1 to 6’8, and by the next year when the new season came around, Pippen was the best player on the floor, earning a scholarship. He went on to be drafted 5th overall in the 1987 NBA Draft to the Seattle Supersonics, who would trade him immediately to Chicago.
By Pippen’s 3rd year, he was already making a significant impact, averaging 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He was amongst the best defenders in the NBA at this point as well, averaging 3 steals a game and drawing big-time matchups defensively. It only took until Pippen’s 4th year in the league for the Bulls to win the NBA Championship, they then went on to dominate the majority of the rest of the ’90s, winning 5 more.
No Ordinary Support Player
Jordan found everything he needed in his wingman Pippen, many people overlook just how talented he was because Jordan may have overshadowed him. The year Jordan took off to play baseball, Pippen finished 3rd in the Most Valuable Player award voting and proved that he was still amongst the best of the best in the league. He averaged career-highs in points, 22, and rebounds, 8.7, and was selected to the All-NBA First Team. He also won that year’s All-Star Game MVP award and led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference’s 3 seed before losing in the Conference Semifinals to the New York Knicks.
The Bulls and Pippen ended up going separate ways after the 1998 season, they traded him to the Houston Rockets where he spent 1 season before being traded to the Portland Trailblazers. The Rockets had chemistry problems that eventually led to Pippen demanding a trade. His averages dropped from his Chicago years on these teams but he was still a productive role player. After the 2003 NBA season, Pippen retired from the NBA as a member of the Chicago Bulls, where he spent the majority of his 17-year career.
Perhaps Pippen’s most notable skill was his ability to guard ball handlers or a team’s best scorer. Pippen made an All-NBA Defensive Team 10 times in his career, 8 First Teams, and 2 Second Teams, he also was the NBA steals leader in 1995. Only 1 other player in NBA history has more Defensive Team selections than Pippen, this speaks to the dedication he put into his craft.
He had an extremely lengthy career, playing 17 seasons and winning 6 championships total. Pippen was also a member of the legendary Team USA “Dream Team” who won the 1992 gold medal in Barcelona, Spain. His contributions and his unique skill set that he brought to the team form part of the reason why this is widely considered the best sports team of all-time.
In 2010, Pippen was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his outstanding career and all that he accomplished. He was inducted twice, once for his NBA career and once for being a member of the 1992 USA Dream Team. We’ll never know if Jordan would’ve won those rings without Pippen but we do know Pippen was without a doubt a detrimental component of all 6 they won.