Scottie Pippen has been making the media rounds promoting his new bourbon brand (Digits) as well as an upcoming memoir (“Unguarded”), which means he wants to make some headlines and draw attention.
While on the Dan Patrick Show Monday, Pippen doubled-down on a comment that former coach Phil Jackson was racist, plus through an elbow at former teammate Michael Jordan.
The racism comment stemmed from something Pippen said in a GQ interview that is part of this media tour. Referring to a play from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks in 1994, when Jackson drew up a final shot for Toni Kukoc instead of him and Pippen legendarily refused to enter the game, Pippen said the play design was “a racial move to give [Kukoc, who is white] a rise.”
Patrick asked Pippen about that.
Patrick: “.. By saying it was a racial move then you’re calling Phil Jackson a racist.”
Pippen: “I don’t have a problem with that.”
Patrick: “Do you think Phil was?”
Pippen: “Oh yeah…”
Patrick tried to give Pippen an out from those comments, but the former Bull doubled down saying, “I was in the locker room with him, I was in practices with him; you’re looking from afar.”
Was Jackson’s decision to run a play for the sharpshooter Kukoc — a play the Bulls had run successfully previously in the season — based on racist intentions? From the outside, it doesn’t appear so. But Pippen would not be the first person to accuse Jackson of racial bias, including LeBron James and other current elite NBA players, who pushed back on Jackson calling LeBron mother and friends/business partners his “posse.”
Pippen also commented to Patrick on Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls to play baseball.
“Yeah, It was a big decision, but It was a selfish decision, but it was kind of who Michael Jordan was. That was a guy who believed he can do anything on his own.”
Is Pippen completely wrong here? Jordan certainly had the right to retire from the NBA and play baseball, and his NBA resume is unassailable. But Jordan walking away from his team after three championships and at the peak of his powers gets glossed over in the mythology of MJ. If he had done that in today’s 24-hour-news-cycle/social media world, the reaction would have blistering.
Pippen is now using it to get his name in headlines.