It’s an easy assumption that most NBA fanatics reminisce about the Michael Jordan era when they think about the history of the Chicago Bulls.They remember Jordan electrifying cities and arenas during the 1980s and ’90s. Whether it would be the multiple slam dunk contests, the shrug in the 1992 Finals or the shot against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989.
Six championships, six finals MVP awards, five regular season MVP’s and 14 All-Star appearances helps Jordan’s case of being the greatest to ever play the game in a Bulls jersey.
But does he rank No. 1 on the list of players to ever play at Chicago Stadium and the United Center? Scottie Pippen doesn’t think so.
In the latest Foot Locker ad, titled “Short Memory,” James Harden is seen talking to Hall of Fame power forward Charles Barkley at a party, asking for his advice on “how to start off the season fresh.”
Barkley, who was the Most Valuable Player in 1993, tells Harden that he needs to have a short memory, explaining that all the great ones have short memories.
Not remembering his coveted nickname, “Round Mound of Rebound” or the time when he hurled a man through a window at a bar, Barkley backs up his statement by bringing in Pippen to the conversation.
Pippen then claims that he was the greatest Bull of all time and since he was the best to ever play in Chicago, having a short-term memory is a perfect way to be successful.
While it’s fun to joke that Pippen could even have the slightest possibility of passing Jordan as the greatest Bulls player in history, it does heighten the argument that Jordan needed Pippen by his side in order to win all of the accolades that he received.
Often categorized as the “Robin” to Jordan’s “Batman,” Or the “George Costanza” to Jordan’s “Jerry Seinfeld,” Pippen has the statistics to be considered as one of the greatest to ever step on the hardwood in Chicago, but will never have the credibility to surpass Jordan in the Bulls hierarchy.
Like his former teammate, Pippen has the same amount of championships with six. But while the 48-year old never won an MVP trophy during the Finals or regular season, he does have a fair share of All-Star Game appearances with seven.
After spending time with a couple other teams out west and completing a brief stint with Chicago in 2003-04, Pippen retired with 18,940 points in 17 seasons in the league. Where does that rank him on the all-time points leaderboard? Fifty-fifth – 52 spots behind Jordan.
So back to the dispute … is Pippen the greatest Chicago Bull of all-time? Absolutely not.
Therefore, could Jordan have won six championships without Pippen by his side? Absolutely not.
It goes without saying that Pippen was one of the most important players to represent the Eastern Conference powerhouse but never received the praised that he deserved.
His effort on the defensive side of the floor heavily impacted the way games finished for the Bulls. Jordan’s ability to score 20 points per game intimidated opponents but it was Pippen who allowed Chicago to win by more than 10 points per game in certain years.
Pippen’s capability to guard the perimeter didn’t go without notice. His 10 All-Defensive honors came in consecutive years during his prime, from 1991-2000.
Many forget this, but keep in mind that Pippen was the greatest player on the Bulls’ roster during the 1993-94 season when Jordan decided to take his talents to the diamond as a minor league baseball player.
During that season, the Arkansas native’s statistics took a sudden jump in comparison to the previous year when him and Jordan grabbed their third consecutive championship. More specifically, points per 100 possessions, from 25.1 (1992-93) to 30 (1993-94).
There’s also the fact that he actually helped Chicago stay pretty relevant, even after losing their star athlete. After leading the Bulls to a 55-win season and clinching the All-Star game MVP, Pippen was finally ousted by the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals in seven hard-fought games.
So we know that Pippen handled himself quite nicely with his buddy absent for that one year. But my other question is, if Pippen won a championship with the Rockets or Trailblazers, would his legacy of being a perfect sidekick change? Absolutely.
Pippen had an opportunity to make an appearance in the NBA Finals back in 2000, but Portland blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals to end his hopes of clinching a seventh championship.
There haven’t been many notable occurrences where the second in command becomes the general, but a good example would be Kobe Bryant. When Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat, Bryant quieted anyone who claimed that he would never win a title without O’Neal by hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy twice back in 2009-10.
All in all, by Pippen announcing that he was the greatest Bulls player of all-time in the Foot Locker advertisement, joking or not, brings up the question of whether or not he actually was the best to ever wear red, black and white.
Of course, it’s silly to even consider Pippen to be a better basketball player than Jordan, but it isn’t silly to consider that Pippen was the main reason why Jordan won so many titles two decades ago.