Scottie Pippen is airing out his true feelings about his NBA heyday while playing for the Chicago Bulls during their ’90s golden era.
The former Bulls small forward and basketball legend played alongside fellow icons Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman during his time on the championship team, but according to him, all that glittered back then certainly wasn’t gold.
Pippen created a sports moment for the books when he took himself out of the 1994 playoff game against the New York Knicks with only 1.8 seconds remaining on the clock, a move that shocked and confused fans. During an interview with GQ published in June, the six-time NBA champion pointed to a racially motivated, “insulting,” strategic move by then-head coach Phil Jackson to elevate then-rookie Toni Kukoc’s career by giving him the chance to take the final shot, and the glory, that Pippen felt he’d earned.
“I don’t think it’s a mystery, you need to read between the fine lines,” he said. “It was my first year playing without Michael Jordan, why wouldn’t I be taking that last shot? I been through all the ups and downs, the battles with the Pistons and now you gonna insult me and tell me to take it out? I thought it was a pretty low blow.”
“I felt like it was an opportunity to give [Kukoc] a rise. It was a racial move to give him a rise,” he stated. “After all I’ve been through with this organization, now you’re gonna tell me to take the ball out and throw it to Toni Kukoc? You’re insulting me. That’s how I felt.”
Pippen let his frustration continue to flow, claiming that the proof is there for anyone who wants to go back and look. After being considered the team’s second-best player following Jordan, Pippen wasn’t going to idly stand by and let someone else be ushered into his number one spot following Jordan’s 1993 retirement.
“Go back and look at it and you can see it. It was my team. Why are you telling me to take the ball out on a game-tying shot? It wasn’t even a game-winning shot. Why are you trying to let him be the hero? He ain’t the leader of this team,” he said. “No. You trying to make him a hero to hit that shot. If he misses, he playing wit’ house money. He playing what I done earned here. OK? I have been earning this for Michael Jordan for years and he gets the last shot. And I’m supposed to step inside and let Kukoc get in there? [Scoffs.]”
Leaving no room for misinterpretation, Pippen stood behind his GQ statement when asked about it during an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show.” When the host pointed out that his comments implied that he believes Jackson is a racist and asked Pippen flat out if that’s how he feels, the former Bulls public relations ambassador didn’t hesitate to confirm replying “Oh, yeah.”
The former 1992 Olympic Dream Team member gave another example of Jackson’s perceived racism using his treatment of the late Kobe Bryant. Jackson penned a 2004 book, “The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul,” about the Lakers’ turbulent 2003-2004 season. In the book, he referred to Bryant as “uncoachable,” among other negative characterizations, then returned to coach him and the Lakers in 2005.
“Do you remember Phil Jackson left the Lakers, went and wrote a book on Kobe Byrant, and then came back and coached him?” asked Pippen at 1:52 before continuing. “I mean, who would do that? You name someone in professional sports that would do that, ya know? I think he tried to expose Kobe in a way that he shouldn’t have. You’re the head coach. You’re the guy that sits in the locker room and tells the players ‘This is a circle, and everything stays within the circle because that’s what team is about.’ But you as the head coach, opening up, and now you go out and try to belittle at that time one probably of the greatest players in the game?”
When Patrick pushed back suggesting that Jackson was instead “disloyal,” as opposed to racist, Pippen replied, “Well that’s your way of putting it out and I have my way.”
Jackson, 75, left the Lakers again in 2011, retiring from coaching to take on executive roles such as New York Knicks team president, a position which he served in from 2014 until his 2017 dismissal. At the time of this writing, Jackson has not addressed Pippen’s accusations.