Former NBA Star Scottie Pippen Releases New Book: Unguarded

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USA News-Sports Division May 31, 2023
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Former NBA Star Scottie Pippen Releases New Book: Unguarded

“It’s all good until the book comes out.” – Charles Barkley

No kidding. Barkley once uttered those words during an episode of Inside the NBA a few years back. He was then referring to a book Phil Jackson wrote, which included some shots taken at the late Kobe Bryant. Those words also hold true about a different book from another player that Jackson used to coach: Scottie Pippen.

You have probably heard by now that Scottie Pippen released a book co-authored with Michael Arkush titled Unguarded earlier this month. Pippen was unhappy with the way he was portrayed in ESPN’s 30 for 30 The Last Dance documentary. That’s some rough English there, huh? Pippen’s main selling point for the new book, pun obviously intended, is that it gives him a chance to tell HIS side of the story about his time with the Chicago Bulls in the late 1980s/1990s. He also claims that many other of his former Bulls teammates were also upset at the way The Last Dance turned out. Pippen’s main beef is that the documentary focused too much on glorifying Michael Jordan instead of telling the story about the entire team.

So, let me get this straight. There is a documentary that features arguably (yes, arguably) both the BEST basketball player to ever play the game – who also happens to be the most marketable basketball player ever. Oh, and this dude also happened to play for one of the most popular sports dynasties of all time. You know, a team that was treated like The Beatles everywhere they went. OF COURSE, PEOPLE WANTED TO SEE A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT MICHAEL JORDAN AND THE BULLS!!! Does anyone care much about what Joe Kleine had to say? No!!! Side note - why was Kleine even featured in the doc? He played with the Bulls for about five minutes! What’s the matter - were Bobby Hansen, Dickey Simpkins, or Rusty LaRue unavailable?

I don’t know about you, but to me it seems as if 99.9999% of the entire world thoroughly enjoyed The Last Dance. There’s always that ONE guy…and unfortunately in this case it’s Scottie Pippen. Actually, that’s not true. Luc Longley was the STARTING center for the last three Bulls championships from 1996-1998. He wasn’t even interviewed! The excuse was that the logistics to get to Australia were too difficult to interview Longley. C’mon man. These people both tracked down and found Dennis Rodman. I don’t know how difficult it actually is to find Dennis Rodman, but that task must be more difficult than going to Australia. OK, I guess that’s two people unhappy with The Last Dance.

I’m not sure what Scottie Pippen was expecting. It’s not as if the entire 10-episode documentary focused solely on Jordan. Sure, he was the obvious protagonist in the doc. However, there were significant parts of multiple episodes focused around Pippen, Rodman, and Jackson among others. I do think Toni Kukoc should have been featured more but that’s neither hear or there. Pippen’s motivation with releasing Unguarded was to tell his story and protect his legacy. I also assume that it was a bit of a money grab – which worked to some degree because my ass bought the book too.

Forget about the book for a minute. Let’s focus on Scottie Pippen’s playing career. For whatever reason many people think Pippen was a bum. And this was before the book!

Scottie Pippen is overrated! He may be the most overrated player of all time!

Scottie Pippen should have never been on the Dream Team!

Scottie Pippen is nothing without Michael Jordan!

Scottie Pippen doesn’t deserve to be on the NBA’s Top 50 or the Top 75!

Scottie Pippen doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame!

Scottie Pippen sucked!

First of all, NO. It’s interesting how quickly people forget. To say that Scottie Pippen was overrated, not deserving of being a Hall of Famer, and claiming that he sucked is irresponsible in my opinion. I can’t take anyone who makes these claims seriously. Most of the people making these comments probably never watched Pippen play, especially in his prime. Scottie Pippen sucked? He actually has quite the basketball resume. Here are Pippen’s key career accomplishments:

  • 6-time NBA champion (1991–1993, 1996–1998)
  • 7-time NBA All-Star (1990, 1992–1997), starting 6 times
  • NBA All-Star Game MVP (1994)
  • 3-time All-NBA First Team (1994–1996)
  • 2-time All-NBA Second Team (1992, 1997)
  • 2-time All-NBA Third Team (1993, 1998)
  • 8-time NBA All-Defensive First Team (1992–1999)
  • 2-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1991, 2000)
  • Led the NBA in steals in 1995
  • 7th all-time in NBA History with 2,307 steals
  • 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist (1992, 1996) – including being a member of “The Dream Team” (1992)
  • Named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all Time (1997)
  • Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2010 (twice: one as an NBA player, one as a member of “The Dream Team”)
  • Named one of the NBA’s 75 Greatest Players of all Time (2021)
  • No. 33 retired by Chicago Bulls, one of only four retired numbers by the Chicago Bulls
  • Was promised the car Michael Jordan won for winning 1997 NBA Finals MVP

Oh, I almost forgot…Pippen once did this to Patrick Ewing. Enjoy.

Yeah, sounds like he was pretty awful! He shouldn’t have even been in the league according to the court of public opinion. Let’s see, what else did Scottie Pippen do during his basketball career? In the 1994-95 NBA Season, Pippen became just the second player in NBA History at the time to lead his team in the five main statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He was the second player in the history of the game to do something amazing. Now, three others have accomplished the feat: Dave Cowens (hall-of-famer), Pippen, Kevin Garnett (hall-of-famer), LeBron James (certain future hall-of-famer), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (two-time MVP, 2021 NBA Finals MVP, and perhaps future hall-of-famer). That’s a pretty damn good list if you ask me.

Pippen’s contributions didn’t always show up in the box score.

There’s Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer to give the Chicago Bulls an 84-82 win over the Utah Jazz. What happened before that shot? Scottie Pippen had a key assist, that’s what. Jazz forward Karl Malone nicknamed “The Mailman” had a chance to put the Jazz ahead. Malone went to the free-throw line with 9.2 seconds left and the score tied at 82. He was a 74% career free-throw shooter. Before Malone shot the first free throw, Pippen delivered one of the greatest trash talking lines in NBA Finals history.

The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays.

That Game 1 was on SUNDAY, June 1, 1997. Malone missed the first free throw. Then he missed the second one. Malone choked. Jordan’s buzzer beater would have been a game-tying shot instead of a game-winner if Malone would have made both free throws. Nostra-Pippen was right. The Mailman didn’t deliver on that Sunday and it cost the Jazz the game. Pippen later had the game and title-clinching steal in Game 6 of that series, diving across the floor to intercept a last second Jazz pass. Toni Kukoc took the diving pass from Pippen and added an exclamation dunk to give the Bulls their 5th championship.

Scottie Pippen was a winning player who did many things on the court that weren’t necessarily worthy of SportsCenter’s top-10 plays. He scored nearly 20,000 points in his career but could make an impact on a game in multiple ways – scoring, rebounding, passing, and defense. I don’t recall Magic Johnson making an All-Defensive team. He was one of the better all-around players, if not most versatile player in the league during his heyday. Pippen was practically a 6’7’’ point forward with a 6’11’’ wingspan which allowed him to guard all five positions. Before there was a prime-Grant Hill or LeBron James there was Scottie Pippen.

Before Toni Kukoc joined the Bulls he was among the most decorated (in terms of awards, not makeup) players in Europe. He was arguably the best player not playing in the NBA at the time. Ask Kukoc about how the defense of Pippen (and Jordan) guarded shut him down in the 1992 Olympics. How were the Bulls able to slow down Magic Johnson and the Lakers during the 1991 NBA Finals? Bulls coach Phil Jackson decided to make a defensive adjustment putting Scottie Pippen on Johnson instead of Michael Jordan. Pippen’s size and length bothered Johnson which allowed Jordan to play freely on the offensive end. The same thing happened during the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals when the Bulls played the Indiana Pacers. Scottie Pippen was assigned to guard Pacers guard Mark Jackson. Again, Pippen’s size and length bothered the opposition’s point guard which would be a key in that series.

The 1993-94 NBA Season was Scottie Pippen’s pièce de résistance. The Bulls has just won their third straight NBA Championship. Then, a few weeks before the next season started Michael Jordan unexpectedly announced he was retiring. Ruh-roh rastro! The Bulls went from being championship favorites to being expected to miss the 1994 playoffs altogether in the matter of one press conference. Pretty cool, huh? Well, the Bulls reign was fun for Chicago while it latest.

Not so fast. That season was an opportunity for guys like Pippen, Horace Grant, and even Phil Jackson to show what they can do WITHOUT Michael Jordan. I’m not sure if they asked for it but they would get their chance. These guys were always afterthoughts and consistently in Jordan’s shadow. It was always, “Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.” The Bulls had assistant coach Tex Winter’s equal opportunity triangle offense and added Toni Kukoc to their squad. As much as it pains me, I need to give the late-Jerry Krause some credit. In addition to Kukoc, Krause added some needed depth to the team by signing guys like Steve Kerr and Bill Wennington which was huge. Maybe these Bulls could be somewhat respectable.

Scottie Pippen would be the man tasked to lead them. All that Scottie Pippen did was average a career high 22.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in addition to finishing second in the league in steals. Those efforts helped lead the Chicago Bulls to a 55-27 record and the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls won 55 games WITHOUT Michael Jordan. For context, the Bulls won 57 games the previous season and were the East’s #2 seed WITH Michael Jordan. Some drop-off! Scottie Pippen also won MVP of the 1994 NBA All-Star game. That was a game where two of his teammates, Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong, made their only career All-Star game appearances.

Phil Jackson finished second in NBA Coach of the Year for that season to Lenny Wilkins, which in my opinion is one of the biggest crimes in the history of the league. Scottie Pippen finished 3rd in voting for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. That’s no small achievement. Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets (that year’s eventual NBA Champs) won that season’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards. David Robinson led the league in scoring and finished second to Olajuwon for MVP.

Think about that. Scottie Pippen was almost the league’s MVP and Phil Jackson the Coach of the Year in a year where Michael Jordan retired, and the Bulls were expected to miss the playoffs. Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong of all people were All-Stars. 55 wins and the #3 seed in the East too. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL!!!

Pippen was the glue that help that team together. The Bulls’ first opponent in the 1994 NBA Playoffs was the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bulls swept the Cavs 3-0 and moved on to play the New York Knicks. Remember that dunk Pippen had over Ewing? It happened in Game 6 of that series, the final game in the Chicago Stadium. If it weren’t for one of the worst foul calls of all-time made by official Hue “I had money on the game” Hollins in Game 5 of that series (Pippen did NOT foul Hubert Davis), the Bulls would have beat the Knicks and moved on to the Eastern Conference Finals and play the Indiana Pacers.

I honestly believe that the Bulls matched up well with that Pacers team and would have beaten them to become Eastern Conference champions for the fourth straight season. Now, would they have beaten the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals that year? I don’t know about that. Olajuwon was a handful and the Bulls had trouble with the Rockets in the regular season WITH Michael Jordan in a Bulls uniform. The law firm of Cartwright, Perdue, Longley and Wennington would be tasked with guarding Olajuwon. Sheesh.

Screw it! Phil Jackson would have come up with some Zen stuff and the Bulls would have won the 1994 NBA Championship – led by NBA Finals MVP…Scottie Pippen! Pippen and the Chicago Bulls would have pulls all of this off WITHOUT Michael Jordan, which is nuts…but noooooooooooo! Hue Hollins had to ruin everything!

The point that I’m trying to make here is that Scottie Pippen was one of the league’s best players and did NOT suck – with or without Michael Jordan. Jordan didn’t win any championships without Pippen. Pippen didn’t win any championships without Jordan. They are among the best duos in NBA history and clearly needed each other to be successful. Period. And that’s OK. Shaq needed Kobe and Dwyane Wade to win championships. Magic needed Kareem. Bird needed Parish and McHale. LeBron needed D-Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Anthony Davis.

Now back to the book (I know, finally!). I bought Unguarded. Overall, it’s a pretty good read and I found it interesting to learn more about Scottie Pippen’s story from his upbringing, to his journey to the NBA, to his playing career, and his relationships with former teammates. Pippen’s perspective and insights are interesting, especially when it comes to The Last Dance but there are several-cringe worthy moments throughout the book. Like a lot.

A lot of those cringe-worthy moments involve taking some surprising shots at Michael Jordan. You know, that one dude that Pippen won 6 NBA Championship with and is attributed to much of his success? Yeah that guy. The best word I can use to describe some of Pippen’s criticism of Jordan is disappointing, especially as a big Bulls and Scottie Pippen fan. MJ was certainly not perfect nor a choir boy. However, he was the most important factor in the success of the Chicago Bulls – and rightfully so. No sane person can deny that.

What even makes parts of the book even more head-scratching is that Michael Jordan rarely, IF EVER, said anything bad about Scottie Pippen. If anything he put him on a both a figurative and literal pedestal, let alone to what did he did to impact Pippen’s playing career. Jordan was even quoted during The Last Dance as saying, “you can’t say Michael Jordan without saying Scottie Pippen.” After winning the 1997 NBA Finals MVP, Jordan shared that he thought Pippen was just as worthy of being named Finals MVP that year and said that he, “might keep the trophy but give (Pippen) the car.” The NBA Finals MVPs were also awarded a car. When Krause nearly traded Pippen to the Seattle Supersonics for Shawn Kemp in 1995 – or was closing to trading him any other time, Jordan threatened to retire on the spot to prevent such a trade.

Hell, even Pippen himself picked Jordan to be his presenter when he was elected to the Hall of Fame and called him his best-ever teammate! During the 1994-95 season when it was rumored that Jordan could return, Pippen was purposely caught on camera pointing to the Jumpman logo on the Jordan’s he wore and made a “come here” gesture asking him to come back. Anytime you saw the two of them in public after their playing careers they appeared to be like two long-lost brothers enjoying each other’s company.

Here are a few of the hot take and shots that Pippen took at Jordan in Unguarded:

  • The Last Dance gloried Michael Jordan while note giving enough praise to (Pippen) and (his) proud teammates. I think the documentary did a good job of doing both- which was most people’s expectation. Please see my comments regarding other former Bulls being featured in the documentary.
  • On Watching The Last Dance: Seeing again how poorly Michael treated his teammates, I cringed, as I did back then. Ok, Pippen may have a point here. But according to many former Bulls, it worked.
  • Michael Jordan ruined the game of basketball. Pippen’s take was more that it’s a team game where all 5 players are needed for the team to be successful and Jordan routinely hogged the ball – which at times was the Bulls’ best play. Given the globalization of the game and Jordan’s popularity I think it’s safe to say that he didn’t ruin basketball.
  • On being called selfish during an episode of The Last Dance: You want to know what selfish is? Selfish is retiring right before the start of training camp when it is too late for the organization to sign free agents. Maybe, but Jordan is a grown-ass man and can make his own decisions – the same way that Pippen elected to put off foot surgery in 1997 until training camp and miss 35 games.
  • On the iconic picture of Pippen carrying Jordan back to the bench during “The Flu Game:” It was just a moment in time. Nothing more, nothing less. Really dude? A guy who was literally sick carried your ass to a win! That’s what you have to say for yourself?
  • On Pippen playing in the Finals with back pain versus playing with the flu: I'm gonna ask you this. Is it easier to play with a herniated disc or to play with the flu? I don’t see many bad-back games, but I do see flu games. Flu. Come on. No YOU c’mon Pip!
  • Michael and I aren’t close and never have been. I don’t see how they could be close after this book. Ask Charles Barkley about his relationship with Jordan after criticizing him.
  • On who was the better player: There’s no doubt in my mind I was superior to Michael in both individual and team defense. Of course, because the media believed Michael could do nothing wrong, he was in the running every season for the Defensive Player of the Year award. I was not. I do believe that Pippen was an underrated defender in his prime, but Jordan was no slouch.

On top of that, Pippen has been on a media tour to promote Unguarded where he reiterates some of these opinions and even doubles down on them! What’s confusing is that during a couple of these appearances he walks back a couple of these comments, especially against Jordan. And…facepalm!

I almost forgot. There’s this interesting take from Pippen in the book when it comes to the best small forwards:

Me or Kevin Durant at small forward? You could go either way.” What???? I’m a Pippen fan but this is just as dumb as someone saying that Scottie Pippen sucked. I’ll take Durant. At least Pippen admitted that Stephen Curry is better than Ron Harper.

The one thing I will say in Scottie Pippen’s defense - and it isn’t much of one, is that he does give Michael Jordan plenty of credit as a great player, for positively impacting his own career, and the Bulls’ team success. In other news: water is wet. He explains how his years playing for the Chicago Bulls were the most rewarding of this career. Breaking news: frozen water makes ice. Pippen is accountable (sort of) in his book for some of the low lights in his career to a degree. He doesn’t shy away from painful topics including the migraine game against the Detroit Pistons (Game 7 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals), sitting out the last 1.8 seconds of a playoff game against the Knicks in 1994 (but he does not regret it), arrested for illegal possession of gun in 1994, and throwing a chair on to the court after getting ejected in a 1995 game against the Spurs.

At the end of the day Unguarded is interesting, but it is more disappointing. Pippen is obviously upset with how he was portrayed in The Last Dance and that’s his right. He’s concerned with his legacy and is clearly sick of being referring to as a sidekick, the Robin to Jordan’s Batman. Was he as good as MJ? No. Is anyone suggesting that he’s a top 10 NBA player of all time (other than Pippen himself)? Nope. Was he the best shooter? Nein. Was he a better athlete? Niete. Was he a better scorer? Skata.

I don’t think it’s a crime NOT to be as good as Michael Jordan or even a top 10 player of all-time last time I checked. Scottie Pippen is an all-time great player and is deserving of all the accolades bestowed upon him. He has clearly held a grudge against anyone, apparently including Michael Jordan, who has disrespected his accomplishments and his basketball career. That’s fine. Pip has every right to feel that way. In some ways I don’t blame Pippen, but I think he’s going after the wrong people in his book (he takes shots at Phil Jackson in his book too). I believe that in criticizing Jordan that Pippen is biting the hand that fed him. I’m not saying that Jordan is above any criticism, but Pippen’s aim is off the mark.

To me this sounds like a case of either someone being hurt and lashing out, pure jealousy, or a classic case of making up a bunch of crap to sell a book and get paid. Let’s face it people. Negativity and controversy sells. Maybe Pippen is looking for a payday. Why else put out a bunch of garbage hot takes? Upset, Scottie? Cool. Go after the media. Go after the twitter trolls – not that doing so will be productive in any way. The internet is a cesspool. Go after Isiah Thomas. He clearly doesn’t respect you. Go after anyone who you feel has clearly wronged you.

Maybe Michael Jordan and even Phil Jackson are two of those people. I don’t see it that way and most people would agree. To me it sounds like sour grapes. Pippen claims he was concerned about his legacy. Did he consider how his legacy would be portrayed after the release of his book? Will Pippen be remembered as an all-time great, part of one of the NBA’s greatest duos as well as one of its greatest teams? Or will he be remembered as a jealous crybaby who didn’t mind throwing others under the bus in an attempt to benefit himself? Is the money he makes off of the book worth ruining friendships, strong or not, with Jordan and others who he lashed out in Unguarded?

Scottie Pippen was my favorite player growing up with Michael Jordan being my second favorite. It’s difficult to criticize him but I must call a spade a spade. I hope that Pippen will be remembered for what he did on the basketball court. That’s how I remember the legacy of Scottie Pippen. Usually backlash from these times of book seems to go away over time. I don’t think MJ will forget it though.

Scottie Pippen OF ALL PEOPLE should know that if you compete against Michael Jeffery Jordan you will likely not win.

C’Mon Pip…cut it out. Please – for your legacy’s sake.

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