There are few players in NBA history that have had the same level of success that Scottie Pippen has enjoyed. As a member of the Chicago Bulls, he won six NBA titles and appeared in seven NBA All-Star Games. He also appeared on the NBA All-Defensive Team ten times and won the 1993-1994 NBA All-Star Game MVP award. Unfortunately, there is one low point that has followed Pippen for much of his career in and around basketball.
In the aftermath of Michael Jordan's abrupt retirement, Pippen was left to guide the Chicago Bulls as the team's best offensive threat and most outstanding defender. With the help of Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong and Steve Kerr, Pippen led the Bulls to a 55-27 regular-season record and a berth in the 1994 NBA Playoffs. After sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, the Bulls faced off against the New York Knicks. In the third game of their seven-game series, the Bulls were down by one point with 1.8 seconds left on the game clock. Chicago Bulls Head Coach Phil Jackson decided to design a play that would have Bulls Forward Toni Kukoc instead of the team's leading scorer, Scottie Pippen. As a result, Pippen decided not to go on to the court for the team's final play. In the end, Kukoc hit the shot, but the Bulls would go on to lose the series in seven games.
Nearly 30 years after that night in Chicago, Pippen's decision not to come on to the court is still a hot-button issue. During a recent interview with Tyler Tynes of GQ, Pippen called Jackson's decision to have Kukoc take the shot instead of him a "racial move."
“I don’t think it’s a mystery, you need to read between the fine lines,” Pippen told the young, talented journalist from Philadelphia.
“It was my first year playing without Michael Jordan, why wouldn’t I be taking that last shot? I have 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?”
After the interview was published, Pippen made headlines for a variety of comments he made during his conversation with Tynes. However, he is not backing away from anything that he said.
It is important to note that Pippen has made public comments about Phil Jackson, Kevin Durant and several others while he is currently promoting a new book. In addition, it is important to point out that this is not the first time that Jackson has been called out for making a "racial move" or using language that could be deemed racist. In 2016, Jackson made headlines when referred to LeBron James' mother and close associates, Rich Paul and Maverick Carter, as his "posse." Many former NBA players like Stephen Jackson and former NBA employees like Amin Elhassan pointed out the racial undertones of referring to a young Black man's friends as his "posse."
"It had to hurt when they lost LeBron," Jackson said about James's decision to leave the Miami Heat and join the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"That was definitely a slap in the face. But there were a lot of little things that came out of that. When LeBron was playing with the Heat, they went to Cleveland, and he wanted to spend the night. They don't do overnights. Teams just don't. So now [coach Erik] Spoelstra has to text Riley and say, 'What do I do in this situation?' And Pat, who has iron-fist rules, answers, 'You are on the plane. You are with this team.' You can't hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland."
James and his business associates did not call Jackson a racist, but they did reply with comments of their own.
"It's the word 'posse' and the characterization I take offense to. If he would have said LeBron and his agent, LeBron and his business partners or LeBron and his friends, that's one thing. Yet because you're young and black, he can use that word. We're grown men," Space Jam: A New Legacy producer Maverick Carter said.
"It just sucks that now at this point having one of the biggest businesses you can have both on and off the floor, having a certified agent in Rich Paul, having a certified business partner in Maverick Carter that's done so many great business [deals], that the title for young African-Americans is the word 'posse'," James added.
After James and Carter publicly fired back at Jackson, the former Bulls coach said that his comments were something that he "could" regret. At this time, he has not been asked about Pippen's comments.