For the release of his autobiography “Libéré” published by Hugo Sport, Scottie Pippen delivered the RMC Sport podcast to the Basket Time team. In this interview, the Chicago Bulls legend trusts in his journey, his relationship with Michael Jordan but also his version of the documentary. The Last Dance.
Scottie, what prompted you to write this autobiography called “Ungarded” (“Liberated”, edited by Hugo Sport)?
I wrote this book to give my share, to show people who Scottie Pippen really was. To show my story, my journey.
The release of the documentary The Last DanceProduced by ESPN with Michael Jordan’s editorial control over it, did it even push you to release your side of the story, your story?
It wasn’t the documentary that prompted me to write the book. It wasn’t the trigger at all. when The Last Dance out I had already started writing it. I don’t think it changed the substance of the book, but it did evolve.
From the beginning of the book we understand the difficulties you went through when you were younger. He remembers that his brother Ronnie was the victim of an attack which unfortunately left him handicapped. Your father also had a stroke. You took care of them very young. What does the Scottie look like Pippen today on the Scottie Pippen yesterday, who had to manage so many things at the same time?
(Laughs) I’ve never let life’s whims take me. I could never have predicted my path, but I always dreamed that one day I would get there. I worked like crazy until I reached my dream.
Has basketball somehow pulled you out of those difficulties? Or has it empowered you? Did it help you grow to get through all of this?
I think basketball has helped me in several areas. It helped me understand teamwork. I played many different sports as a child. Basketball, baseball, soccer and track and field. Sport has no more secrets for me. The importance of the collective that I was able to put into practice in basketball. I was able to use everything I learned in other sports for basketball. Cutting the passing lines, knowing how to take offensive fouls, all important points to be a good defender. I have taken from all sports to become a complete basketball player.
By taking the book about Michael Jordan’s part, you evoke his callousness towards you and your teammates. What are you trying to say about him? At the beginning of the book you have harsh words against him. The further you advance, the more it seems like your relationship is evolving. Even if you weren’t the best of friends, by the end of the book it seems like you understand better why that was the case.
This is a rather profound question. I really don’t know how to answer. I think the book tells you a lot about our relationship. Who he and I were.
Was there a breakthrough in this relationship in 1992? When you join Team USA it is certainly one of the best moments of your career. All those nights with Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan playing cards. Did this bring you closer to Michael? Why were you in a different environment than the Bulls?
No, I wouldn’t say it affected our relationship. Michael has always kept a certain distance. He didn’t approach us. For years we have grown together looking for our respective flaws. We did all of this together, we evolved together. In training, even in the summer, we pushed each other. It wasn’t our relationship off the basketball court that mattered. The important thing was to win together.
A very delicate passage in the book now… It’s the one where you evoke the death of James Jordan, Michael Jordan’s father, in 1993. A very difficult summer for you if we remember the facts. You tried to contact Michael Jordan to extend your condolences. You contacted people from the Bulls management to talk to him because you didn’t have his phone number! Would you like to add something about this episode or at least explain why it happened like this? Because at the time you couldn’t tell him about it until months later. Fans may be wondering today like Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan’s teammate, with everything they’ve been through together, didn’t have his phone number?
Well back then, phones weren’t used as they are today. Sometimes we didn’t even have a phone. I don’t really know why this happened. At the time, it wasn’t that important to communicate with others. Maybe that’s the reason, I don’t use it as an excuse. Maybe I wasn’t mature enough to know how to handle this kind of situation.
Could this episode have had an influence on your relationship later on, even though you are obviously still in touch with both of them today?
No I do not think so. That’s exactly what happened. Michael took a step back from the game and basketball in general. There are sure to be questions about that moment, but I think that’s what he wanted deep inside.
Now let’s talk a little more about the player than the man. This amazing career powered by 6 NBA titles. This embodiment of the collective player, putting the team first. On a personal level, do you have any regrets about distinctions, things you deserved to have and ultimately didn’t get?
I have no regrets. I think I’m pretty happy with what I’ve accomplished. It was fun and full of results, so no, I have no regrets. I can’t tell myself, I should have done this or that because it would have questioned everything I was able to accomplish.
Reading the book you see all these people who have marked your path and who have been important to you. We can mention for example Muggsy Bogues, the former Charlotte Hornets point guard with whom he played during the famous NBA pre-draft camp in Portsmouth. Do you still have contact with these people today?
I have contacts with dozens of former teammates. The ones I talk to the most are (Horace) Grant and Ron Harper. From time to time I meet the boys and occasionally we chat.
Ask some former teammate to call you to thank you for writing and telling your side of the story or another part of the story told in the documentary The Last Dance ?
Nobody called me to thank me even though I sent them copies of the book.
A word about today’s Chicago Bulls who have had a great season finishing 6th in the Eastern Conference with 46 wins. Despite being eliminated by the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs, what do you think of their season?
They weren’t ready. They had problems with injuries. They lost the point guard (Lonzo Ball) quite early in the season. It was their first problem. They weakened during the season when there were high expectations. There were several problems. When you play against the defending champion you have to be ready. When you meet them in the first round, this is the kind of thing that can happen to you. I am able to overcome it.
Last question for the future. One of your sons, Scottie Pippen Jr., will run for draft this summer. How do you see the evolution of his career?
I see a good career for him. He has a lot of heart and potential!