Basketball documentary, The Last Dance, which chronicles the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, has been informing the culture intimately.
The series debuts two new episodes on Sundays and episodes 7 and 8 did not disappoint. However, last weekend’s episodes shone a light on two little known facts: Jordan was an extreme ball buster. Also, that once, Scottie Pippen abandoned his team on the court.
Pippen, who has been shown as the level-headed, more personable teammate, showed his difficult side. When Pippen felt some type of way during a game, he wouldn’t pout he would flat out quit.
It was the night of May 13, 1994.
It was the second round of the playoffs, Chicago’s first without Jordan. His Airness was now playing baseball and Pippen was the new leader of the Bulls.
However, the Bulls were trailing the Knicks 2-0 in the series. It was now Game 3 and the score was tied at 102-102 with 1.8 seconds to play. Bulls coach, Phil Jackson designed the last-second shot for Toni Kukoc who was eager to take it.
This was a departure from the norm as usually Pippen would have been given that responsibility. But he wasn’t and he looked at it as an honor that passed him over.
Uncharacteristically, Pippen became angry and then decided that he would not go back in the game.
“We [didn’t] know how to act,” Steve Kerr recalled. “Scottie’s one of our favorite teammates, one of our favorite people in the world. He quit on us. We couldn’t believe that happened. It was devastating. … The worst part was we knew that was not Scottie’s character. We knew that wasn’t him. And we knew that was going to be a stain on his reputation.”
The quiet consistent star abandoned the team, on the floor during a pivotal playoff game. With all the comparisons to MJ, this is one that Pippen has no equal to in Bulls folklore.
Jackson recalled Jordan calling after the Pippen incident and saying: “I don’t know if [Scottie’s] ever going to live this down.”
Kukoc made the shot, which was an incredibly difficult one, a catch-and-shoot turnaround from just inside the 3-point line with a hand right in his face.
The shot won the game. However, it sunk Pippen in the court of public opinion for his teammates.
After the game, teammate Bill Cartwright got up and gave an impassioned speech and Pippen apologized profusely. Now 25 years later, you can tell the team and coach are still visibly hurt and Pippen admitted that “it’s one of those incidents where I wish it never happened.”
Still, he follows by saying, “But if I had the chance to do it over again, I probably wouldn’t change it.”
“The Last Dance” dredged up old issues like Pippen being underpaid for years. It also revealed Pippen’s strained relationship with the Bulls front office, particularly, Jerry Krause former General Manager.
But after 25 years and the disappointment of your teammates and Michael Jordan, you would think he would have a change of heart. He does not and it gets to the root of what the docuseries does for us the fans: grounds it in reality.
When you create superheroes out of regular people that happen to be talented, its easy to forget their humanity. Scottie Pippen was a beats his entire career and the Bulls didn’t compensate him for it. We know now that he was big hurt and took it out on the franchise when he felt it necessary.