One of the cogs that made the Chicago Bulls dynasty click in the ’90s was Scottie Pippen. Traded to the Bulls from the Seattle SuperSonics when he was drafted, Pippen blossomed into one of the NBA’s most elite players. Prior to entering the NBA, though, life wasn’t so good for him. This rough upbringing led Pippen to put family before money during his NBA career, an aspect of his life that was highlighted in the docuseries The Last Dance on ESPN in 2020. Read on to learn all about the “Swiss Army Knife” of the NBA!
Scottie Was The Youngest Of 12 Children
Born in Arkansas in 1965, Scottie Pippen was the youngest of Ethel and Preston Pippen’s 12 children. He was also the tallest, standing 6’8″ fully grown. With his mother standing six feet tall and his father being 6’1″ Scottie was not an outlier in his family.
Tragically, Preston Pippen suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed, forcing him to retire early from his job at the paper mill. He passed away in 1990.
Colleges Weren’t Interested In Pippen
Despite dominating basketball at the high school level, major college programs weren’t interested in offering Scottie Pippen scholarships. Without many options, he enrolled at the University of Central Arkansas. From 1983 until 1987 he played in 93 games with a per-game point average of 17.2.
Pippen’s strong college career finally got him the attention he deserved and he declared for the NBA Daft. The Seattle Supersonics struck a deal with the Chicago Bulls to draft and trade Pippen with the fifth overall pick for Olden Polynice and “future draft options.”
He Led The Bulls To Their First NBA Title In 1991
Playing alongside Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen began to blossom in the 1989-90 season as an elite defender and rebounder. By the next season, the Bulls were ready to take the next step. Coach Phil Jackson was revolutionizing the NBA with his triangle offense and Michael Jordan was unstoppable.
Pippen was used by Jackson that year as the team’s top defender as well as a featured offensive player. The team made the NBA Finals and Pippen averaged 21.6 points-per-game. The Bulls beat the Lakers to win the city’s first title.
Two More Back-To-Back Titles Followed, Along With A Shocking Retirement
The next two seasons brought two more titles to the Chicago Bulls. The three-peat was an incredible feat, especially considering the Bulls would pull it off twice. Before starting their second title run, though, Michael Jordan shocked the basketball world by retiring.
With Jordan out of the picture, Pippen became the face of the franchise. In his first solo season, Scottie Pippen led the Bulls to 55 wins but failed to reach the NBA Finals. The next season they made the playoffs again and failed to reach the Finals.
Pippen’s Selfish Moment On The Court
Facing the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Scottie Pippen appeared to have a mental lapse, putting himself above the team for the first time in his career. The Bulls were trailing in the series and needed a last-minute shot to keep their hopes alive.
Phil Jackson drew up a play to give Toni Kukoc the final shot. The decision infuriated Pippen, and he refused to play the rest of the game. Kukoc ended up making the shot, but the Bulls were not able to bounce back in the series.
“The Big Three” Of The Nineties
Two seasons after retiring, Michael Jordan returned to the Bulls. The un-retirement made Scottie Pippen the second most important player on the team. Bringing Jordan back wasn’t the only upgrade the Bulls got — the team also traded for Dennis Rodman.
Rodman, Jordan, and Pippen formed the “Big Three” of the ’90s and proved nearly impossible to beat. The next Bulls three-peat officially began in the 1995-96 season. With the success, though, came more turmoil for the often under-appreciated Pippen.
Pippen Was Underpaid
Early in his Bulls’ career, Scottie Pippen signed a seven-year, $18 million extension with the team. At the time the contract seemed fair. In just a few short years, though, Pippen became one of the game’s top players and was paid like one of the worst.
Always the consummate professional, Pippen stayed quiet about his contract frustrations and even revealed in The Last Dance that when he originally signed his extension, he was more worried about taking care of his family than protecting his future finances.
Traded To The Rockets
At the conclusion of the 1997-98 season, the Bulls’ stars were aging and the team was looking to rebuild. To begin the process, the team traded Scottie Pippen to the Houston Rockets.
Pippen stayed in Houston for one season before heading to Portland to play for the Trailblazers. He spent the next four seasons in the Pacific Northwest before returning to the Bulls in 2003 to end his NBA career. His retirement from the NBA would open a new opportunity for Pippen he had never considered.
Pippen Played Overseas In 2008
Fours years after retiring from the NBA, Scottie Pippen took his talents overseas to play in Scandinavia. The move to an international league came after Pippen announced his NBA comeback attempt in 2007. He wanted to win a seventh ring.
When no title contenders offered him a contract, he toured Scandinavia, making appearances with Torpan Pojat in Finland and Sundsvall in Sweden. Once his tour was over, Pippen announced his official retirement from the game of basketball.
He’s Been Married Twice
One year after making his NBA debut, Scottie Pippen married Karen McCollum. The couple had one son, Antron Pippen, before divorcing in 1990. Seven years later Pippen married his second wife, Larsa Younan.
Pippen and Younan had four children together: Preston, Scotty Jr., Sophia, and Justin. In 2017, the couple divorced. Pippen also has two children out of wedlock, one with a former fiancee and another with a former girlfriend.
He’s A Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist
Scottie Pippen won his first Olympic gold medal as a member of the Dream Team alongside Larry Bird and Michael Jordan in 1992. The team eased their way through the tournament, proving just how American-focused the sport of basketball was.
The international basketball competition grew stronger over the next four years, but the 1996 Olympic team, with Pippen taking the lead, still proved unbeatable. Nearing the end of his career in 2000, Pippen was not a member of the next Olympic team.
He Might Be The Greatest Defender Of All Time
During his 17-year career, Scottie Pippen was named to the NBA’s all-defensive team 12 times. He averaged two steals a game before retiring and was a dominant playoff defender often tasked with shutting down the opposing team’s most dangerous scorer.
In comparison, Kobe Bryant made eight all-defensive teams. Bruce Bowen made the all-defensive five times, and other notable defensive players never earned the honor. Without Pippen on the Bulls, it’s possible they would have never won six titles.
Was He A System Player?
It has been argued that if Scottie Pippen never played in Chicago under the leadership of Phil Jackson, he never would have reached his full potential. Pippen was known more as a defender before Jackson introduced the Triangle Offense and turned Pippen into a scoring machine.
Despite being inducted into the Hall of Fame, there will always be doubters who will say Pippen was a system player. To defend their argument, they will point to his career outside of Chicago as proof.
Michael Jordan Helped Him Make The Dream Team
Heading into the 1992 Olympic games, Scottie Pippen was coming off one all-star season and seemed to be an odd choice for the men’s basketball team. Isiah Thomas was still in his prime and would have made more sense.
Reportedly, Michael Jordan refused to play with Thomas, though, meaning he was never in consideration to make the team. The two had a rivalry that could not be put on hold for Olympic glory. Pippen also expressed concerns about Thomas’ attitude publicly.
The Bulls Retired His Number In 2005
In 2005, the Chicago Bulls honored Scottie Pippen’s career with the team by retiring his number. The ceremony happened at halftime during a game against the Lakers and reunited Pippen with Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, Horace Grant, and Dennis Rodman.
Pippen’s number was the fourth to ever be retired by the franchise. The first three retired numbers belonged to Jerry Sloan, Bob Love, and Michael Jordan. The Bulls have not retired another number since.
He Has A Statue Outside United Center
Six years after retiring Scottie Pippen’s number, the Bulls revealed plans to build a bronze statue in his honor. The statue was unveiled one month later, with Pippen saying:
“Words really can’t express my feelings. It’s something you dream of as a kid growing up, but you can never foresee those childhood fantasies becoming reality. You see statues of individuals who have done great things and made their mark on history, but as a basketball player, you never really think about arriving at this point. It’s an amazing honor for the Chicago Bulls to do this for me.”
Pippen Said LeBron James Is Better Than Jordan
In 2011, Scottie Pippen drew the ire of Bulls fans when he said, “Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play the game. I may go so far as saying LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game.”
Horace Grant, one of Pippen’s former teammates, responded, “Wow, Pippen’s my man, and we’ll always be close, but I totally disagree. LeBron is going to be one of the top players to ever play the game, but Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who we bumped heads at times, is I think, the best basketball player I’ve ever seen.”
His Name Is Scotty, Not Scottie
On his birth certificate, Scottie Pippen’s name is actually spelled Scotty. Early on, Pippen found out that if he went with the original spelling of his name, people would shorten it simply to “Scott.”
To avoid this from happening, he started spelling it Scottie so people would assume it was his proper name. Since today he is known as “Scottie” Pippen and not “Scott” Pippen, it’s safe to say he was correct.
Pippen Had His Own Video Game
At the peak of his career with the Bulls, Scottie Pippen participated in the creation of the video game Slam City with Scottie Pippen. The game is considered one of the first interactive movie games and allowed players to work their way through a narrative.
When it was released, the game was met with negative reviews, with GamePro remarking that the limitations of the narrative made it feel repetitive. Other critics blamed the poor control mechanics for the overall failure of the game.
He Is Notoriously Frugal
During his career, Scottie Pippen was notoriously frugal when it came to going out for food. According to Sports Illustrated, restaurant workers even nicknamed him “No Tippin’ Pippen” because of how bad his tips were.
In the same article, the magazine named Pippen one of the leagues’ biggest “skinflints” alongside Shawn Kemp and Kevin Garnett. NBA Legend Charles Barkley even weighed in on the matter in 2014, telling Conan O’Brien “There’s nobody cheaper than Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.”