Although he once considered Michael Jordan to be basketball’s ‘greatest’ player, Scottie Pippen‘s opinion of his celebrated former teammate has changed considerably. This week, the 57-year-old Pippen claimed the 60-year-old Jordan was a ‘horrible player‘ until they joined forces on the Chicago Bulls in 1987.
‘I seen Michael Jordan play before I came to play with the Bulls,’ Pippen said in a video that has since gone viral. ‘He was horrible to play with, he was all one-on-one, he’s shooting bad shots. All of a sudden, we become a team and we start winning, everybody forgot who he was.’
Pippen didn’t just disparage Jordan, but did so while elevating LeBron James, whom he called ‘the greatest statistical guy to ever play the game of basketball.’
Such criticism of Jordan by the proverbial ‘Robin’ to his ‘Batman’ isn’t a complete shock, but rather just the latest chapter in a worsening feud. Their relationship became strained following the release of ESPN’s 2020 docuseries about the 1997-98 Bulls, The Last Dance, and things only got worse when Jordan’s adult son began dating Pippen’s ex wife, Larsa.
So how did the Jordan-Pippen partnership become so frayed?
Scottie Pippen takes a photo with Michael Jordan during the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Jordan’s son Marcus (right), 32, is now dating Pippen’s ex-wife Larsa (left), 48
Things were fine between the two in the years after they retired.
Pippen described Jordan lovingly terms during his own Hall of Fame induction speech in 2010: ‘MJ, you have touched so many people’s lives, but none like mine. Thank you for being the best teammate; I will always cherish that experience and I will cherish our relationship forever.’
Similarly, Jordan credited Pippen for their six championships together in Chicago during his induction speech a year earlier.
‘In all the videos, you never just saw me; you saw Scottie Pippen,’ Jordan said. ‘Every Championship I won.’
Their partnership is legendary.
Jordan was one of the NBA’s preeminent stars when Pippen was acquired by the Bulls in a draft-day trade in 1987. The problem was, despite his obvious gifts, Jordan had yet to win much of anything at the professional level.
Enter Pippen, a former 6-foot-1 guard who grew into a dynamic 6-foot-8 forward at unheralded Central Arkansas.
Pippen (No. 33) and Jordan (No.23) enjoyed two separate three-peats as members of the Bulls
Pippen’s arrival in Chicago, coupled with Phil Jackson’s promotion to Bulls head coach in 1989, became the catalyst that turned a woeful franchise into six-time NBA champions.
Not only did they win six titles together, but the pair remained fiercely loyal too.
In fact, in 2018, Pippen told ESPN that Jordan was ‘the greatest player to ever put on shoes and play in our game.’
He even backed off a comparison between Jordan and James: ‘I’m always asked to compare him to LeBron, and I try to make the best of it. But really, the comparison shouldn’t ever be made.’
More recently, though, Pippen’s praise of Jordan has descended into something entirely different.
The issues with Pippen began with ESPN’s ‘Last Dance’ docuseries, which aired in 2020 to wild acclaim.
The problem, from Pippen’s point of view, is that Jordan seemed to be credited for the Bulls’ success in the 1990s, while his teammates were seen as minor players.
‘They glorified Michael Jordan while not giving nearly enough praise to me and my proud teammates,’ Pippen, 57, wrote in his memoir, Unguarded, which was released in 2021. ‘Michael deserved a large portion of the blame. The producers had granted him editorial control of the final product. The doc couldn’t have been released otherwise. He was the leading man and the director.’
Jordan and Pippen watch the Charlotte Bobcats take on the Bulls in Chicago in 2011
As a result, Pippen claims, the documentary felt inauthentic.
‘I don’t think it was that accurate in terms of really defining what was accomplished in one of the greatest eras of basketball, but also by two of the greatest players — and one could even put that aside and say the greatest team of all time,’ Pippen told The Guardian in December 2020.
‘I didn’t think those things stood out in the documentary. I thought it was more about Michael trying to uplift himself and to be glorified. I think it also backfired to some degree in that people got a chance to see what kind of personality Michael had.’
But Pippen may have a separate issue with Last Dance, stemming from the criticism he took from Jordan in the docuseries.
Specifically, Jordan took issue with Pippen’s reluctance to get a necessary ankle surgery before the 1997-1998 season.
Although he eventually did undergo the procedure, he waited to do so until much of the off-season had passed, and as a result, did play until January.
And according to Jordan, Scottie’s reluctance to have the surgery came as a result of his contract dispute with Bulls general manager Jerry Krause.
‘Scottie was wrong in that scenario,’ Jordan said. ‘He could’ve gotten the surgery done as soon as the season was over and be ready for the season.
‘What Scottie was trying to do was try to force management to change his contract. Jerry wasn’t going to do that. So now I got to start the season knowing that Scottie wasn’t going to be around.’
As a result, the Bulls got off to a slightly disappointing 24-11 start that season, although they still went on to win their sixth title together.
Larsa Pippen (left) and Marcus Jordan (right) are seen on May 7 in Miami, Florida
Further complicating matters is the romantic relationship between Pippen’s ex-wife, 48-year-old Larsa, and Jordan’s 32-year-old son, Marcus.
‘Marcus and Larsa are dating and have been spending more time together in recent weeks,’ a source told Us Weekly in 2022 after the couple was spotted in public. ‘They are trying to keep it on the down low because of the rift between Scottie and Michael.’
Pippen and Larsa were married for nearly 20 years and had four children together before divorcing in 2021.
Larsa described their relationship candidly during an episode of Real Housewives of Miami, saying that the couple had intercourse four times a night for 23 years.
‘I was married for 23 years, I’ve always had sex like four times a night,’ she said. ‘So three times a week is nothing… I had sex four times a night, every night. I never had a day off for 23 years.’
When other cast members suggested that Marcus had ‘big shoes to fill,’ Larsa insisted he has nothing to worry about.
‘Well, he has a size 15 shoe so I think he’s OK,’ she said.
Ahmad Rashad, Larsa Pippen, Scottie Pippen, Yvette Prieto and Michael Jordan attend the surprise birthday celebration for Scottie Pippen at Sunda on September 24, 2012
Things have apparently progressed with Larsa and Marcus.
In February, Larsa referred to him on Instagram as her ‘forever Valentine.’
As was the case with Jordan’s feud with rival Isiah Thomas during their playing days, or his recent friction with long-time friend Charles Barkley, the Hall of Famer has avoided speaking publicly on the matter.
Jordan and Pippen were seen smiling and hugging at a game as recently as 2016, but it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll rekindle a partnership that resulted in six NBA titles in Chicago.