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NBA 75 Series: #35 Scottie Pippen

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

Coming in at #35 on my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time is the greatest robin, and one of the greatest defenders and all-around players in NBA history, Scottie Pippen. Pippen was born on September 25th, 1965, in Hamburg, Arkansas, to his mother Ethel, and father Preston. Pippen had 11 older siblings, and would wind up as the tallest of them all at 6-foot-7.

Pippen would attend Hamburg High School, where he would play point guard for the team, helping lead them to the state playoffs and earn all-conference honors as a senior. Strangely, he still didn’t receive any scholarship offers from top schools, but would eventually take his talents to play for the University of Central Arkansas, after being discovered by head coach, Don Dyer, as a walk-on.

Pippen wouldn’t get the national media coverage other top schools in the NCAA received because Central Arkansas played in the NAIA. He was only 6-foot-1 coming out of high school, but had a massive growth spurt to sprout to 6-foot-8 while at Central Arkansas. As a senior Pippen averaged 23.6 points, 10 rebounds, 4.3 assists, while shooting 60.3% from the field that earned him Consensus NAIA All-American honors in 1987 and made him a dominant player in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference that caught the eye of NBA scouts.

He would go on to be selected fifth overall in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder), but would be traded to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Olden Polynice to pair up with the great Michael Jordan. Pippen was very raw coming into the league, very skinny, athletic, and still had to mature as a player.

But, as the seasons progressed he would become the ultimate “Robin” and Jordan’s sidekick during the 90’s Bulls dynasty that saw them win six championships (1991-93, 1996-98). He was a force on both ends of the floor, while being among the most versatile and talented players ever. Pippen orchestrated the offense like a point guard, rebounded like a power forward, scored like a shooting guard and defended on the perimeter like few others, arguably the best perimeter defender ever.

He missed the playoffs just once in his 17-year career, allowing him to have the second-most playoff appearances ever (208) at the time of his retirement, behind only then-leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (237). More than anything, his all-around game became the prototype for the next generation of small forwards such as Grant Hill, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and so forth, being the first elite point forward on both ends of the court. He was a two-time gold medal winner, including with the 1992 Dream Team where he and Jordan shut down and tortured future teammate Toni Kukoc.

Besides his titles, Pippen was a seven-time All-Star, All-Star Game MVP (1994), seven-time All-NBA selection,led the league in steals (1995), and a 10-time All-Defensive selection, with eight of those first team! He also almost helped lead the Bulls to the Conference Finals in 1994 against the Patrick Ewing-led Knicks, but lost in seven games. He did have a legendary, filthy dunk on Ewing though for good measure. Pippen is a top five defensive player of all time and was the ultimate complimentary player, and perfect complement for Jordan, forming the best duo in NBA history, and best wing defender duo ever.

As the second-best player on the championship Bulls teams alongside Michael Jordan, Pippen may never get his due, but let’s not get it twisted without Pippen, Jordan doesn’t win all those titles and isn’t as revered as he is today. He was a freak of nature and we give him his flowers here as the best “Robin” ever.

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