Scottie Pippen
Vendetta Roundtable: Does refusal to re-enter Knicks Playoff Game stain the legacy of Scottie Pippen? 3 writers from the site weigh in. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images/NBAE)

We will continue the Vendetta Roundtables talking about The Last Dance documentary. The last one went pretty well so we’re going to take another bite at the apple. The legacy of Scottie Pippen came full circle. Pippen was a sympathetic figure for being underpaid for many years. Then he was bashed for refusing to re-enter Game 3 of the 2nd round series against the Knicks with 1.8 seconds remaining. Phil Jackson dialed up a play for Toni Kukoc and Pippen refused to go in the game. Does this stain his legacy?

Trey Daubert

A lot of people say that MJ never won a title without Scottie Pippen so we should hold that against him. It’s a piss poor argument because Jordan only played his first two years and his two Wizards years without Pippen. Sure, we never know what happens if we swap out Pippen for another star. Jordan’s legacy doesn’t really change. He still would have been the guy who creates enemies with that killer mentality.

What is fair is that we got to see what Scottie is without MJ. A whiny coward. Great basketball player. Terrible leader. Should it tarnish his legacy? Hell yeah. Chicago shouldn’t be looked at the bad guy here for not re-doing his contract earlier. You don’t do favors for pouters. Especially Pippen who said in the Doc:

“It’s one of those incidents where I wish it never happened. But if I had a chance to do it over again, I probably wouldn’t change it.”

Few quick things.

It would be one thing if he had a shitty head coach. Phil Jackson gets the benefit of the doubt. If that’s me I’m rolling with what Phil has dialed up. No questions asked. If my coach is Joe Schmo, yeah, then maybe I’m mad about it.

Toni Kukoc was a really good player.

Toni Kukoc made the shot so Pippen REALLY looks like a jackass.

Chicago was dog shit until MJ returned during the 1994-95 season. That team had no leader and Pippen’s actions from the playoff series had a carry over effect.

Great player. Does it affect his legacy? God, yes. How do you not lose respect for him? He’s perfect for ESPN. Just like that loser, Tracy McGrady. Especially when he’s so un-self-aware that he wouldn’t change it years later.

Alex Chick III

Basically, if the question is if Scottie Pippen fucked up or not. He did, massively. To be fair, to the young generation like myself, probably did not hear about it until the last dance. Those that watched him know that there was a stain on his legacy because of that, now we all know. But the action itself is wild. Even in today’s game. There’s not anyone I think in the NBA that would sit out the last seconds of the game because the ball wasn’t going to him. I get it, he’s arguably one of the best players in the NBA at this point, he’s “the man” for the Bulls now and his pride was hurt. But Toni Kukoc was no scrub and perfectly capable of taking that shit.

It was selfish and arrogant of Pippen. I’m glad Phil Jackson didn’t beg him to play, his quick “fuck him” was music to my ears. Sure, if it was MJ and Kobe, would they be mad? Hell yeah, would they sit out the game though? Probably not. The locker room after the game would have stayed silent and his teammates would have turned on Scottie and eventually break the entire team’s chemistry, if it wasn’t for Bill Cartwright. He stood up and emotionally told Scottie Pippen let his teammates down. Scottie Pippen apologized and some amends were made. Scottie fucked up majorly. But it seems like most of that was forgotten when MJ came back. It just shows that some stars aren’t meant to be the #1 guy.

Jarrod Prosser

The short answer is yes, but not nearly by as much as I thought it would at the time.

Let’s consider the scenario. Pippen is, for the first time in his career, the undisputed #1 option. The final seconds of a tied game, down 0-2 in a series against their great rivals in New York, this is Pip’s chance to show that he is indeed The Man. But Phil Jackson, in the most Phil Jackson thing he’s ever done, gives the shot to a rookie European who Scottie had gone out of his way to embarrass not 2 years prior.

Now, I can’t say for sure that I’ve ever been in that exact circumstance (spoiler: I have not), but I’d expect that Scottie would have be incredibly pissed. That said, not checking back into the game was possibly the lowest act that he could have performed in that situation.

Bill Cartwright tore strips off of Pippen in the locker room after the game, and so he should have. This was the Bulls leader doing the exact opposite of what a leader should do. The reaction in the press was equally as vicious. Pippen was dragged from pillar to post over this, and to be honest, that’s perfectly fair.

But, as I said at the top, in the long run this didn’t tarnish his reputation anywhere near as much as it could (should?) have. Scottie Pippen is still a revered Hall of Fame basketballer, loved not just by Bulls fans, but by the masses.

I believe there are a few reasons for that. Firstly, Pippen learnt from that incident and elevated himself to higher levels for the rest of his playing days. Secondly, Kukoc made the damn shot! If he’d missed, the Bulls would have been fractured as a team and down 0-3. A sweep was likely. Finally, Jordan came back and the team won 3 more titles.

If the second set of titles doesn’t happen, then Pippen is remembered for his surrender, rather than being MJ’s right hand man on a pair of three-peats and his legacy is completely changed. He’s the choker; the man who shriveled in the harsh spotlight. He wasn’t worthy.

As it is, Kukoc makes the game winner, the Bulls put up a fight in the rest of the series, Jordan eventually returns and the rest, as the old saying goes, is history.