Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen once formed arguably the greatest duo in NBA history, but the Hall of Famers aren’t on the best terms at the moment. Pippen, who starred alongside Jordan on the Bulls from 1987-98, hasn’t just been burning bridges as of late — he has been blowing them up with dynamite.
Ever since the release of ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” Pippen has taken any and every opportunity to push back on his depiction in the documentary series, which was co-produced by Jordan’s company. He did a seemingly endless run of interviews to promote his book “Unguarded,” and he was happy to take shots at Jordan at nearly every stop.
MORE: Ranking Michael Jordan’s Bulls championship teammates
I have openly criticized “The Last Dance.” He called Jordan “selfish” and “condescending.” He even downplayed the legacy of Jordan’s “Flu Game,” which occurred during the 1997 NBA Finals. Yep, Pippen went full scorched earth.
Is it too late for Jordan and Pippen to mend fences? A former Bulls big man certainly thinks so.
During an appearance on “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” Charles Oakley, who played for Chicago from 1985-88 and is one of Jordan’s close friends, expressed serious doubts about his old teammates ever reconciling. When Simmons asked Oakley if he thought Jordan and Pippen would speak to each other again, Oakley offered a blunt response.
“No, I think it’s over,” Oakley said. “Yeah, I think it’s over. It wasn’t great from the get-go.”
Oakley believes Pippen remains frustrated he didn’t get more airtime on “The Last Dance,” which chronicled the rise of the 1990s Bulls dynasty but was largely focused on Jordan’s journey.
“I think they [covered] Dennis Rodman more than Scottie — and Steve Kerr,” Oakley said, referring to two key members of Chicago’s second three-peat. “But my thing to that is, Kerr did way more off the court than Scottie. Dennis probably has, too. But on that court, Scottie did a lot more than both of them, but Scottie felt like he was left out of there. And he felt like Jordan wouldn’t have six rings if it wasn’t for him. . . .
“[Jordan] always praised Scottie, always praised Scottie. He never talked down about him, but I don’t know what happened since ‘The Last Dance.’ It seems like things just — he probably said, ‘OK, Scottie said this stuff about me. OK, I’m not gonna say anything.’ He’s not gonna say nothing back in the press, none of that, try to go back to Scottie. He’s just gonna keep doing what he’s doing — play golf, fish, relax and smoke cigars.”
MORE: How Pippen’s single line of trash talk helped Bulls steal Game 1 of ’97 Finals
Oakley also noted Pippen’s reputation was hurt because “The Last Dance” highlighted some of his worst moments, including the 1994 playoff game in which Pippen famously decided to sit out the final play because Bulls coach Phil Jackson gave Toni Kukoc the final shot instead of him. .
“Everybody got a chance to see, like, ‘Wow, Scottie, you’re giving up on your team,'” Oakley said.
In his memoir, Pippen wrote he didn’t usually let his “lack of closeness” with Jordan bother him, but there are moments when he feels “hurt” about not working to create a closer bond.
“By no means am I an innocent party here,” Pippen wrote. “I missed some openings that might have made a difference, and I have to live with that.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.