Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Two names that are closely related like Asterix and Obelix, Kirk and Spock, Batman and Robin.
The two won six titles between 1991 and 1998 with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA and were part of the “Dream Team” at the 1992 Olympics. Pippen, the Small Forward, was the second major pillar of the Bulls alongside Jordan, the exceptional athlete, alongside “His Airness “. His congenial partner.
The fact that there was also a big conflict between the two at the end of their Bulls career – this is now thrown at by the much anticipated and enthusiastically received one ESPNDocumentary series “The Last Dance” a new light.
“I felt Scottie was selfish,” Air Jordan says there in the final minutes of the second episode that was uploaded to Netflix on Monday night.
Serious injury to Scottie Pippen
The now 54-year-old defensive specialist Pippen had missed the start of the “last dance”, the 1997/98 season, around which the documentary circled and which ended with the last title for him and Jordan.
In the 1997 conference finale, Pippen suffered a ligament tear in his ankle, which at the time did not prevent him from pulling through the final series against Utah Jazz by Karl Malone and John Stockton and thereby making a decisive contribution to title number 5.
So far, so heroic epic – but how Pippen then dealt with the injury became a point of contention.
Michael Jordan found Pippen “selfish”
Pippen decided to perform the necessary surgery shortly before the start of the new season, which put him in check for several months.
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“My thought was: you know what? I don’t break my summer with rehab,” explains Pippen 23 years later in the documentary. So he doesn’t regret his decision – while Jordan still has a different perspective.
“Scottie was wrong about this scenario. He could have done the surgery after the season was over,” says Jordan. And adds that he found Pippen’s decision “selfish”.
However, the decision also has a history.
Fight for contract and salary
“There was a lot of anger at Scottie,” says former Bulls guard Steve Kerr – now a successful coach of the Golden State Warriors in “The Last Dance”: “He was one of the best in his sport for many years. He has so much for the Bulls done. And then his frustration is overwhelmed. “
Despite his consistently proven qualities, Pippen had a comparatively very modest contract. His 1997/98 annual salary: $ 2,775 million – that of Jordan was $ 33.14 million that year.
In the talks about a new deal, Pippen went overboard with Jerry Krause, then General Manager of the Bulls (who generally doesn’t get away well in the documentary). Pippen’s surgical decision is not only interpreted by Kerr as an act of revenge – and resulted in further trouble.
Chicago Bulls thought of trade
Krause tried to trade Pippen – which Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf prevented, Pippen was still angry and threatened in the meantime not to play for the Bulls even after his recovery.
“He wanted to trade me and never said it in my face. It made me feel insulted,” Pippen says.
As is known, Pippen ultimately did not carry out his threat, Jordan and Pippen once again entered the NBA final and – again against jazz – completed their second “three-peat”.
Rain of money only in Houston and Portland
The sixth title marked the end of the Bulls dynasty: Jordan resigned, master trainer Phil Jackson left as did the third top star Dennis Rodman, and Pippen also left Chicago after eleven formative years.
Jordan’s “Robin” moved to the Houston Rockets, where his salary was quadrupled to $ 11 million, later at the Portland Trail Blazers, he made even more (almost 20 million in the last contract year 2003) than he did in his sporting years coat the bulls.
However, Pippen was never able to achieve the longed-for seventh title without Jordan, not even during a last Bulls comeback before his career ended in 2004.