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Commentary: Scottie Pippen sells books, but hurts his reputation, with attacks on Michael Jordan

Sure, Pippen wants to sell books and the more controversy the better. But at what cost?

Scottie Pippen’s recent criticisms of Michael Jordan will likely hurt his reputation more than MJ’s.
Scottie Pippen’s recent criticisms of Michael Jordan will likely hurt his reputation more than MJ’s.
NBAE via Getty Images

Naive, bitter, sad, embarrassing, confusing, jealous, petty, aggrieved, spiteful.

Those are just a few words when it comes to word association with Scottie Pippen and his new book “Unguarded.” The book was released on Tuesday.

Pippen sounds like all of those things, most notably when he goes after former teammate — and former friend? — Michael Jordan.

Pippen is unhappy with his depiction in the ESPN-Jordan documentary “The Last Dance,” which first aired in the spring of 2020 while the NBA was on its COVID-19 hiatus. He feels slighted and wants to settle scores in the book.

“He couldn’t have been more condescending if he tried,” Pippen wrote of Jordan’s role in “The Last Dance,” adding, “Now here I was, in my mid-fifties, seventeen years since my final game, watching us being demeaned once again. Living through it the first time was insulting enough.”

Pippen is in the midst of a media tour to promote and sell more copies of the book.

An excerpt of the book and a video Q&A ran in GQ, The New York Times published a Q&A with Pippen and he appeared Monday on NBC’s “Today.”

Sure, he wants to sell books and the more controversy the better. But at what cost? His reputation? Pippen is entitled to write the book he wants. But the way Pippen comes off is probably not the way he wants to be remembered.

To some degree, Pippen is misguided and misleading one way or another — his ire for Jordan in particular.

While he skewers Jordan in the book, Pippen a decade ago also asked Jordan to be his presenter at the 2010 Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony.

Pippen wanted Jordan there at one of the most special events of his professional career, and in his Hall of Fame speech, Pippen said, “MJ, you have touched so many people’s lives, but none like mine. Thank you for being the best teammate. I will always cherish that experience and I will cherish our relationship forever.”

Hmmm.

Whatever has changed, it’s not a good look for Pippen.

Pippen appears jealous of Jordan, and it doesn’t make sense for several reasons.

As a basketball player, Pippen is respected. He made the league’s list of 50 greatest players 25 years ago, is on this season’s list of 75 greatest players and was ranked the 22nd greatest player in NBA history in USA TODAY’s recent list. He’s a Hall of Famer, six-time champ, seven-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA performer, 10-time All-Defense and two-time Olympic gold medalist.

There is no disputing what he brought to the court. His game is recognized.

His squabbles are petty, such his complaint that Jordan made $10 million from “The Last Dance.” Ignoring that Jordan donated the earnings is disingenuous and considering Jordan’s role as an executive producer, it’s naïve to think Jordan wouldn’t see financial benefits. Without Jordan signing off on the project nearly three decades ago, the behind-the-scenes footage would not have been possible. There is no “Last Dance” without Jordan or his approval.

If Pippen was surprised that the documentary was all about Jordan and Jordan’s perspective, then that’s Pippen’s lack of awareness. We all know who Michael Jordan is in that regard. Of course, it was going to be about him. And that’s what fans wanted to see.

What do you think the LeBron James documentary will look like in 20 years? Some of the same NBA Entertainment filmmakers who had access to Jordan have similar exclusive access to James. That will have James’ slant, not Kyrie Irving’s, not Kevin Love’s, not Anthony Davis’ and not even Dwyane Wade’s.

The doc also revealed some of Jordan’s flaws. It’s not a surprise his singular pursuit of winning was off-putting at times. It’s who he was as a competitor. Just as we know Pippen always has felt slighted — like when Phil Jackson ran a late-game play for Toni Kukoc instead of Pippen, and Pippen refused to enter the game.

Pippen showed us a part of who he is then and showing us a part of who he is now.

Read more at usatoday.com