During his interview with DJ Vlad, John Salley described Scottie Pippen as « the most skilled player he’s ever played with, » insinuating that he was even more skilled than Michael Jordan. Fast forward a few months, and Gary Payton did the same thing while guesting on the same show.
« Scottie Pippen was that guy »
Unlike Salley, The Glove never got to play with either of the two. He did, however, face them in the 1996 NBA Finals, when his Seattle SuperSonics lost the six-game series that kicked off the Bulls’ second three-peat run.
Payton didn’t have the inside scoop every Bull, including Salley, had, nor was he around Scottie and Michael daily. However, from what he had seen when playing against them and following their NBA careers, GP couldn’t help but agree with John.
« As an all-around basketball player that can change the game, Scottie Pippen was that guy. He can guard everybody, he can score, he’ll do everything, he’ll make a big assist, he’ll make the big block, he’ll do things like that. I think that’s what he was saying; the best player that makes everybody around better. Michael was just a guy who would score and make the big shots and make the big things. »
Gary Payton, Vlad TV
The interdependence of Scottie and Michael is the epitome of the NBA’s polarizing topics. How much did one impact the other? How different would Pippen have been as a player had he played without MJ and vice versa? How big of an impact did Scottie have on the Bulls’ road to becoming a dynasty?
Answers to these questions determine Pippen’s all-time ranking as well as his value for one of the greatest teams ever. And while most of your average NBA fans would lean toward No.23 as the more important one, Payton would argue Scottie’s skillset was the biggest difference-maker for Chicago.
« Scottie Pippen changed a lot of things for the Chicago Bulls, » GP said. « If he wasn’t there, I think they wouldn’t have won a lot of the games because he did guard the best player, he made the crucial plays, got the crucial rebounds, got the crucial blocks and things like that. I think that’s what John is really really saying. »
The reason for Pippen’s frustrations with The Last Dance
Playing with Jordan, while rewarding Pippen with a plethora of team and individual accolades, turned him into one of the most disrespected players we’ve ever seen. And for decades, he’s been quiet about it. Until The Last Dance was released, prompting a series of shots Scottie fired at MJ in his book published over a year later.
« Michael wasn’t giving them the credit that they were really supposed to have, » Payton said while talking about what caused Pippen’s backlash against Jordan’s doc. « I think that Scottie has gotten proven what it was; he’s a Hall of Famer, he’s all of that, he’s a Top 50, Top 75 now. He’s got his credit. He knows what he was, and I know what he was, and people who know basketball understand how that Bulls team wouldn’t have been the Bulls team without him on it. »
Phil Jackson described Scottie as « the greatest all-around player in the NBA. » Now, Gary Payton did the same thing. In fact, many would put Pippen above Michael when it comes to their overall basketball abilities. That, in and of itself, should’ve been a good enough validation for Pip and the reason against feuding with Jordan over the doc he was in charge of creating. But unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Scottie allowed himself to fall into the trap of resentfulness that eventually backfired. He went from being one of the most underappreciated players ever to « a bitter, bitter man, » who, according to Charles Oakley, « thinks too much of himself. » And the reality is, everyone who knows basketball knows how to appreciate the greatness of No.33.