Lincicome: Looking back on all things Scottie Pippen
A quick check of my notes from the time that Scottie Pippen mattered finds, well, nothing. No opinions, no awareness, no debate. As I recall, Pippen spoke so softly, it was difficult to hear anything he might have said anyhow. Still, let me look again.
Ah, yes. There was that Game 7 against Detroit when Pippen played like a traffic cone. He had a migraine. Came on just before game time. Headache. Double vision. Pippen made one shot. Bulls lost.
Let us not dwell on what may have been an authentic medical impairment rather than, as others have suggested -- including myself -- an entirely human response to being battered and bullied by future teammate Dennis Rodman and the Pistons' noted thug Bill Laimbeer.
Aware in the immediate aftermath of the game that his migraine explanation had skeptics, Pippen said, "I guess I have to live with this."
The "Migraine Game," as it is since been identified, merely postponed the Bulls dynasty by one season, though there is that nagging notion that at least one NBA title was left somewhere in Auburn Hills, two others somewhere on minor league baseball fields, and another lost when the Bulls were broken up for no good reason.
But this column is not about what might have been. We go down that road and all of Chicago sports would be one long sigh. The Bears would have five Super Bowl titles instead of one, the Blackhawks six Cups instead of three, the Cubs four Series titles instead of one (with the same team disintegrating before our eyes), the Sox not just one title but ... well, we will never know had Tony La Russa not been so misused.
Where was I? Oh, yes, Pippen.
Pippen has been much among us lately, loudly offering opinions, slanting history, calling his old mate Michael Jordan -- really the only reason anyone is listening -- selfish and implying that Phil Jackson, the holistic schemer who figured how best to knit Pippen and Jordan into the force they became, that Phil Jackson, is a racist.
This brings us to another note from Pippen's past, the notorious 1.8 second rebellion when Jackson -- maybe not Big Chief Triangle's most sensitive decision; Pippen was the leader of the Jordanless Bulls, after all -- gave the last shot of a playoff game against the Knicks to Toni Kukoc instead of to Pippen.
Pippen is still sulking about that. "I took a seat," was his response at the time when asked what happened. He should have said 'Toni made the shot and we won," but he did not. He fumed silently for 30 years.
This recent fuming may be the result of business pressures to sell his new bourbon and to hawk his upcoming autobiography. Better men than Pippen have been done in by booze and books.
Still, the grudges seem too fresh to him, too raw. Would he be who he is without Jordan? Of course, not. Would Jordan be what he became without Pippen? Sure, he would have. While it is true neither one won a title without the other, we always knew which one was Mario and which one was Luigi.
This may seem to a generation unfamiliar with the glory of the '90s like old uncles arguing about which one mom loved best. It would have remained in the thin scrapbook of Chicago's sports glory had not the pandemic made Jordan's "Last Dance" documentary a TV winner. In it Pippen is reminded how he always fell into Jordan's long shadow.
Maybe what Pippen needs is a hug more than anything else, though a boost in bourbon sales might help, too. I like mine neat but, according to Pippen's own PR, he'll take his with cranberry juice if you have it.
I would like to cheer Pippen up, and maybe this little post Dream Team tale might help. Motoring across the Pyrenees from Barcelona to Paris, I stopped for lunch in the village of Foix, on the French side.
I ordered the cassoulet from a cheerful young waiter named Roger, whose English was better than my French and who took no blame for the cassoulet, too heavy for lunch at any altitude.
"Olympeeks?" Roger asked, motioning with his head back toward Spain.
"Wee," I said, exhausting my French.
"Drim Tim?" he asked. I nodded. The Dream Team, yes.
"Michael Jordan?" I asked. "Your favorite?"
"Oh, he is very good," Roger said. "But he is not my favorite. My favorite is Peepeen."
Huh? You mean Scottie Pippen rather than MJ?"
"C'est un dieu," Roger said, kissing his fingers in the French way. "Peepeen is the best."
I doubt anything Pippen has said or done since has changed at least one French mind. Nor any of the rest of us, come to think of it.