Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Not Just any Sidekick

Scottie Pippen, the man who helped bring 6 NBA Championships to the city of Chicago, has announced his retirement. Chicago Tribune basketball writer Sam Smith has a nice column in today’s Chicago Tribune:
Pippen, who officially announced his retirement Tuesday after 17 years in the NBA, was a unique player—willowy and long-armed, cat-quick, powerful and intelligent. He was the star who would be a role player, not that it always was his choice and one he didn't resent at times.

Like everyone else, Pippen wanted to be like Mike. Everyone wants to be the hero. It's even tougher when you're that close and cannot be.

Pippen was the ultimate supporting player, the perfect complement, the guy to defend the opponent's best and shut down an offense. When the Bulls finally won their first championship in 1991, John Paxson hit the big shots and Jordan made the highlight play, the switch-hands layup still shown as the symbol of that series. But it was Pippen who took away the Lakers' game, shutting down Magic Johnson and thus paralyzing the Lakers' offense.

It was Pippen over the years taking on a little point guard like Mark Price one night, going up against Charles Barkley or Shawn Kemp or Karl Malone the next. Whatever was necessary, even if he didn't shoot the ball, isolate and go one-on-one, do the things of NBA highlights and individual acclaim.

Pippen set the screen, got the rebound, made the assist. Isn't the definition of greatness making your teammates better? Pippen did that as well as anyone with his versatility.

He allowed Michael to be Michael.
Lets not forget that in 1993-94 season (the year following Michael’s first retirement) that Scottie Pippen led the Bulls to 55 victories and what would have been another finals appearance if not for the now acknowledged phantom foul call by Hue Hollins. Believe it or not, that play is still fresh in the minds of Chicagoans. Pippen was drafted out of a little Central Arkansas where, as a college freshmen, the best he could do was make the team as a manager. From there he was stolen by the Bulls from Seattle on draft day and went on to be a perennial all-leaguer, win Olympic Gold twice, and be named one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time.

What I will remember most about him though is his fierce energy and defensive swagger that he brought to the floor. With those long arms, cat quick reflexes, and absolute relentless style of defense he could seemingly cover every passing lane and every man on the floor. All at once. But my favorite memory will always be that last Bulls championship game. Yes, Michael struck that unforgettable pose as his shot fell through the net to give the Bulls their 6th championship, but Scottie Pippen, wincing in pain and barely able to walk because of a back injury stayed in the game, hobbled up and down the court, and made a key basket and defensive stop down the stretch that kept the Bulls in position to win.

So, to perhaps the greatest all around basketball player to ever play the game, thanks for making those summers of Bulls championships in the 90's so memorable and so magical for this kid. Now go take your due place in the hall of fame. Thank you Scottie.


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