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Scottie Pippen is one of the most talented and successful athletes from the state of Arkansas. An essential member of the championship Chicago Bulls basketball team from the 1990s, Pippen was in 1996 named one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History.” During his seventeen seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), he participated in the play-offs in all but his last season, was named to the NBA All-Star team seven times, and won six NBA championships, all with the Bulls; Pippen also has won gold medals with two Olympic basketball teams.
Scottie Maurice Pippen was born on September 25, 1965, in Hamburg (Ashley County) to Preston and Ethel Pippen, the youngest of their twelve children. Pippen’s father worked at a paper mill until a stroke forced him to retire when Pippen was fourteen. Pippen played baseball and football as well as basketball, but the athletes he most admired and wanted to imitate were basketball stars such as Julius Erving. Pippen was determined to succeed at basketball, but he was only 6'1" and 150 pounds as a high school senior. Although he led Hamburg High School to the state regional playoffs and was named to the all-conference team, no colleges recruited him or offered him a basketball scholarship. As a favor to his high school coach, Pippen was offered a position with the basketball team at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County). This offer was not for a playing position but as student manager of the basketball team.
During his four years at UCA, Pippen grew to 6'7" and 210 pounds. He also grew in skill and experience as a basketball player. Used even in his freshman season because of openings on the team, Pippen eventually played all five positions on the team. Though the UCA Bears won conference championships his junior and senior years, and he was twice voted onto the NAIA All-America team, Pippen feared that he would not be noticed by NBA scouts because his team failed to advance into post-season tournaments. His versatility, though, and his performance at pre-draft NBA tryouts, sufficed to attract the attention of several professional teams, including the Chicago Bulls. Negotiating a trade with the Seattle Supersonics, the Bulls managed to add Pippen to their team, making him the fifth player overall chosen in the 1987 draft.
Pippen quickly became an essential member of the Bulls team. Like his sensational teammate, Michael Jordan, Pippen excelled in all aspects of the game—scoring, defense, and assists. Jordan and Pippen are the only players to participate in both strings of Bulls championships, from 1991 through 1993 and from 1996 through 1998. Pippen, during his career, scored 18,940 points (fortieth in NBA history), 6,135 assists (twenty-third in NBA history), and 2,307 steals (fourth in NBA history). He has the most three-point baskets made in Bulls history (664) and is third in rebounds (5726). Few basketball players have contributed to their team’s success in so many different ways.
Although Pippen often played with the team despite pain and injury—most notably in 1998 when he withstood a painful back injury to help the Bulls win the final game of the championship series against the Utah Jazz—he was at times criticized by fans for missing key games or parts of games due to illness or injury—or, in one case in 1994, a brief fit of temper. Pippen’s outspoken comments about teammates and management have also been noticed by fans and sportswriters. After the 1998 championship, when Michael Jordan and coach Phil Jackson both left the Bulls organization (both eventually to return to basketball with other teams), Pippen sought to leave the team also. He was resigned by the Bulls that fall and immediately traded to the Houston Rockets; a year later they traded Pippen to the Portland Trailblazers. Pippen played four years in Portland before returning to Chicago to play his final year with the Bulls—the only year Pippen played in the NBA when his team failed to make the playoffs.
Pippen lives in southern Florida. In 2005 and 2006, he was a studio analyst in television broadcasts and has also been in many advertisements since he began his NBA career. A Chicago-area candy manufacturer named a chocolate bar for him in 1993. He has sometimes portrayed himself in guest appearances on television programs, including an appearance on ER in 1996. Pippen played three games for European basketball teams in 2008 and has since served as an ambassador for the NBA overseas. On January 20, 2010, his jersey was retired by UCA.
From 1988 to 1990, Pippen was married to Karen McCollum. In 1997, he married Larsa Younan; they filed for divorce in 2016. He is the father of five children. He has written an autobiography for children called Reach Higher, published in 1996. In addition to his NBA success, he also won gold medals in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics on the United States basketball teams after a change in the rules allowed professional athletes to participate. In 2010, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Two years later, he was named senior advisor to the Chicago Bulls’ president and chief operating officer.
Pippen spent much of his career as a teammate—some would say “in the shadow”—of Michael Jordan. When Jordan first retired from basketball in 1993, Pippen hoped to prove his talent by leading the Bulls to a championship without Jordan, and he nearly succeeded. Though he never won a championship apart from Jordan, Jordan also never won a championship without Pippen. “I know [Pippen] makes me a better player,” Jordan once said. “Unfortunately it may take a while, after we both retire, for people to realize just how good Scottie Pippen really was.”
For additional information:Pippen, Delois Billings. The Manager Who Became a Superstar: The Story of Scottie Pippen. New York: Vantage Press, 1994.
Pippen, Scottie, with Greg Brown. Reach Higher. Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1996.
Sachare, Alex. The Chicago Bulls Encyclopedia. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books, 1999.
Walker, Nick. "Saluting Scottie." Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. January 21, 2010, pp. 1C, 5C.
Steven TeskeNorth Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 10/24/2016
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