Michael Jordan has been a favorite target because of Pippen’s perception of his “The Last Dance” portrayal (as a “prop”) and the fact Jordan made $10 million from that documentary while Pippen and the other Bulls made nothing.
In his book, Pippen takes a shot at the heart of the Jordan mythology — that him bullying/being hard on the Bulls teammates lifted them to heights they would not otherwise have reached — and wrote that it was something those teams had to overcome, they were not lifted up by it. (Hat tip CBSSports.com).
“In the doc, Michael attempted to justify the occasions in which he berated a teammate in front of the group. He felt these guys needed to develop the toughest to get past the the NBA’s more physical teams. Seeing again how poorly Michael treated his teammates, I cringed, as I did back then.
“Michael was wrong. We didn’t win six championships because he got on guys. We won in spite of his getting on guys. We won because we played team basketball, which hadn’t been the case my first two seasons, when Doug Collins was our coach. That’s what was special about playing for the Bulls: the camaraderie we established with one another, not that we felt blessed to be on the same team with the immortal Michael Jordan.”
Yes, that’s a second helping of bitterness. That doesn’t mean Pippen is wrong, either.
Different players respond and react differently to various leadership styles. Some players thrive under a more positive, player-friendly coach. Some players are at their best being directly challenged and called out, as Jordan did. The best coaches are able to know and read players, providing each with the kind of motivation they need. One flaw in the Jordan (and, for that matter, Kobe) mythology is the one-size-fits-all idea that bullying makes everyone better.
Pippen may have been the good cop to Jordan’s bad cop (Derek Fisher used to play that role with Kobe). And the idea that Jordan won surrounded by nice role players and not other Hall of Famers has always been wrong. However, also wrong is the idea that anyone but Jordan was driving that Bulls’ bus.
Pippen’s resentment has been bubbling up for decades, going back to when he felt disrespected by his contract while playing for Chicago. Pippen has long felt underappreciated while working for the Bulls and “The Last Dance” was the last straw.
We’ll see whether Pippen’s scorched earth policy sells books.