Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen won six NBA titles as Chicago Bulls teammates. | Vincent LaForet/AFP via Getty Images
We need a long break from these two two guys. That would have been an unthinkable statement 25 years ago.
We didn’t need a 10-part “documentary” to tell us that Michael Jordan is cruel and obsessed with his legacy, and we didn’t need a memoir to tell us that Scottie Pippen is … what’s the clinical term? … a big baby.
But here we are, cornered again by both men because Pippen has written a book, “Unguarded,” as a response to what Jordan said about him in Michael’s 2020 ESPN infomercial, “The Last Dance.”
Both these guys need to let it, and us, go.
They’d be much happier if they did, and it would do wonders for those of us who can’t understand why Jordan and Pippen regularly drag us through the perceived slights and very real pettiness of their 34-year relationship. I don’t remember asking for a trip down bad-memory lane.
Imagine being in your 50s and deeming it necessary to remind everyone that you’re the greatest basketball player in the history of the game, in case somebody (hello, LeBron) gets the idea he might be better. Jordan earned at least $3 million for the ESPN project (though he donated the money to charity) and had editorial control, which tells you it was less a documentary and more an ode. It means that a six-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player felt the need to take an airbrush to his career. Really, Michael?
Imagine being in your 50s and being so emotionally needy that, despite having a plaque in the Basketball Hall of Fame, you never feel like you get your due, mostly because your more-famous, more-talented former teammate won’t give it to you. A secure person would shrug it off, comfortable with the reality that egomaniacs aren’t in the dues-giving business. But this is Pippen, who needs an airport carousel to deal with all of his baggage.
I never thought I would say this, but I wish these guys would take a long, long break from us. The pair, arguably the best one-two punch in NBA history, won six NBA titles together with the Bulls. They brought lasting joy to Chicago. You would think there couldn’t possibly be a dark side to such a wonderful collaboration. Sure there were issues. If two people work that closely together for that many years, they’ll get on each other’s nerves at times. But this level of smallness is ridiculous.
Every six months or so, Pippen emerges to tell one reporter or another why Jordan is or isn’t the best player ever, getting in a few jabs at his teammate/nemesis and kicking up an artificial storm that serves no purpose in life. Some of us are drawn into the debate. Most of us roll our eyes.
Every now and then, Jordan emerges to tell us about the “supporting cast” he had when he won all those MVP awards. You don’t need to be a detective to figure out he’s lumping Pippen with Luc Longley and Randy Brown.
Now Jordan and Pippen have graduated from strafing each other to dropping bombs, in Jordan’s case a documentary and in Pippen’s case a book. But the raised level of engagement doesn’t change the cause of their war. Scottie wants Michael’s unconditional approval, and Michael won’t give it to him.
Jordan is the chairman of the Charlotte Hornets. One would think the job comes with so many responsibilities that there wouldn’t be time to luxuriate in 25-year-old achievements. Or that there wouldn’t be time to jealously guard a legacy against pretenders to the crown of Best Ever. You’d think there’d be little time to belittle Pippen.
We’ve been told over and over again, often by Jordan, that this fierceness, this serrated edge is what makes him him and what made him so good as a basketball player. We get it, Michael. You’re better than Scottie, who will never, ever be your equal.
You’re not beating a dead horse. You’re beating a horse that’s in need of a therapy dog.
“I was nothing more than a prop,” Pippen wrote of his portrayal in “The Last Dance.” “His ‘best teammate of all time,’ he called me. He couldn’t have been more condescending if he tried.”
If Michael and Scottie keep this up, their long-running slap fight will end up being as much a part of their legacy as their six NBA titles together. That’d be a damn shame.
Pippen says Jordan wouldn’t have been Jordan without Pippen.
Jordan says, Scottie who?”
I could really use a long nap. Can you wake me in, say, 25 years?