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The world has been seeing a new Scottie Pippen in 2021. Following the release of the Michael Jordan-centric "The Last Dance" documentary, which is about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, Pippen has started to speak out about how he feels Jordan and the producers shafted him in the program, and other behind-the-scenes happenings that didn't make it into the final cut.
Pippen's feelings about "The Last Dance" will be on full display in his forthcoming memoir "Unguarded," which comes out Nov. 9. GQ got an exclusive excerpt of the book, and it's all about Pippen's reaction to watching the doc.
It begins with Pippen receiving a text from Jordan, who'd heard that his former teammate was upset. And Pippen was upset. He was upset at how he and his teammates had been portrayed in "The Last Dance" as merely bit players instead of vital and important pieces of a championship team. And Pippen knew who to blame.
The final two episodes aired on May 17. Similar to the previous eight, they glorified Michael Jordan while not giving nearly enough praise to me and my proud teammates. Michael deserved a large portion of the blame. The producers had granted him editorial control of the final product. The doc couldn’t have been released otherwise. He was the leading man and the director.
Pippen felt like a 'prop'
In the excerpt, Pippen wrote that he thinks Jordan's desire to prove he's better than LeBron James drove his decision to make "The Last Dance" all about him. The documentary did spend some time on Pippen's past, but Pippen was unhappy with how he'd been portrayed.
Even in the second episode, which focused for a while on my difficult upbringing and unlikely path to the NBA, the narrative returned to MJ and his determination to win. I was nothing more than a prop. His “best teammate of all time,” he called me. He couldn’t have been more condescending if he tried.
On second thought, I could believe my eyes. I spent a lot of time around the man. I knew what made him tick. How naïve I was to expect anything else.
Each episode was the same: Michael on a pedestal, his teammates secondary, smaller, the message no different from when he referred to us back then as his “supporting cast.” From one season to the next, we received little or no credit whenever we won but the bulk of the criticism when we lost. Michael could shoot 6 for 24 from the field, commit 5 turnovers, and he was still, in the minds of the adoring press and public, the Errorless Jordan.
Pippen speaks to former teammates
Pippen wrote that in the aftermath of "The Last Dance," he heard from a number of his former Bulls teammates, and they all expressed the same anger and frustration at Jordan relegating them to also-rans on their own championship team.
Over the next few weeks, I spoke to a number of my former teammates who each felt as disrespected as I did. How dare Michael treat us that way after everything we did for him and his precious brand. Michael Jordan would never have been Michael Jordan without me, Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc, John Paxson, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman, Bill Cartwright, Ron Harper, B. J. Armstrong, Luc Longley, Will Perdue, and Bill Wennington. I apologize to anyone I’ve left out.
I’m not suggesting Michael wouldn’t have been a superstar wherever he ended up. He was that spectacular. Just that he relied on the success we attained as a team — six titles in eight years — to propel him to a level of fame throughout the world no other athlete, except for Muhammad Ali, has reached in modern times.
Pippen spends an extended amount of time in the excerpt talking about his interactions with Paxson, who played for the Bulls during their first two championships and went on to become an NBA executive. According to Pippen, he and Paxson developed animosity toward each other after Pippen retired in the middle of a two-year deal Paxson had offered him as GM of the Bulls. Following that incident, Pippen wrote that Paxson intentionally ignored all of Pippen's desires to become more involved in the franchise.
Paxson texted Pippen just a few days after Jordan did. In the excerpt, Pippen describes what may be one of the most awkward phone calls ever.
On May 22, 2020, the day after Paxson sent his text, the two of us spoke for a few minutes over the phone. He got right to the point:
“Pip, I hated how things turned out when you came back to Chicago. This organization has always treated you poorly, and I want you to know that I think it’s not right.”
I was glad to hear Paxson admit a wrong I had known forever. Which didn’t mean I was willing to forgive him. If that, indeed, was what he was looking for. It was too late for that.
“John,” I said, “that is all fine and dandy, but you worked in the front office for the Bulls for almost 20 years. You had a chance to change that and you didn’t.”
He began to cry. Not knowing how to respond, I waited for him to stop. Why he was crying, I couldn’t be sure, and honestly, I didn’t care.
Before long, our chat was, mercifully, over.
The lesson here? Don't get on the wrong side of Scottie Pippen.