Scottie Pippen will never win by whining about Michael Jordan

No matter how many insults he levels, Pippen always will be in Jordan’s shadow.

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Scottie Pippen was a trusted sidekick for Michael Jordan during the Bulls’ dynasty years, but that doesn’t seem to be good enough for him. 

Scottie Pippen was a trusted sidekick for Michael Jordan during the Bulls’ dynasty years, but that doesn’t seem to be good enough for him.

Andy Hayt/AP

You have to wonder what’s going on with Scottie Pippen. Why does he keep saying these things about Michael Jordan?

First there was his 2021 book, ‘‘Unguarded,’’ in which he let us know Jordan was arrogant and self-centered. He told us it disgusted him that Jordan had called him ‘‘his best teammate of all time’’ in the 10-part ESPN documentary ‘‘The Last Dance.’’

What was wrong with that?

‘‘I was nothing more than a prop,’’ Pippen wrote. ‘‘He couldn’t have been more condescending if he tried. [The documentary] glorified Michael Jordan while not giving nearly enough praise to me and my proud teammates.’’

Well, OK. Understood. True. In a sense.

Jordan’s massive ego and often-nasty competitive drive is well-known. And that docudrama was a Jordan happy meal, getting produced only because he agreed to participate and have some control over what was shown.

But the series also was about the most fascinating Bulls player ever, with the greatest sense of theatrical timing and with the looks and charisma to suck in an audience. Oh, and likely the greatest basketball player of all time.

Sour grapes ferment badly.

For there was Pippen last week on former Bull Stacey King’s ‘‘Gimme the Hot Sauce’’ podcast, saying about Jordan: ‘‘He was a horrible player. He was horrible to play with.’’

He went on to add: ‘‘He was all one-on-one. He’s shooting bad shots. And all of a sudden we become a team and we start winning, everybody forgot who he was.’’

For the record, the year before Pippen joined the Bulls — Jordan’s third in the NBA — MJ played 40 minutes a game and averaged 37.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.9 steals. Incredible numbers.

Two years after Pippen came aboard, Jordan still played 40 minutes a game and averaged 32.5 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and 2.9 steals. Equally incredible numbers.

It seems likely Pippen has not now, nor will he ever, get used to the fact that as great as he was — and he was a terrific ballplayer — he was destined to play behind a phenom such as Jordan, a man who sucks the oxygen out of any room he enters.

It must have driven him even more nuts if he watched ‘‘Air,’’ director Ben Affleck’s Jordan/Nike shoe hagiography. Jordan is portrayed in the film as a demigod, something like a budding Jesus or Muhammad, never filmed from in front, his face never revealed.

This kind of thing would be troublesome for any teammate in a team game. Indeed, there’s word other Bulls teammates from ‘‘The Last Dance’’ weren’t thrilled about being bit actors in the Jordan epic.

But most were along for many of the six championships the Bulls won behind Jordan from 1991 to 1998. Pippen was there for all of them. And most players would agree winning a ring is what it’s all about. And nothing’s perfect.

There’s room for only one alpha wolf in a pack, and Pippen wasn’t it.

His greatest statistical year came in 1993-94, when Jordan went off to play baseball. But it was also his most unfortunate year in that even though he had been elevated to team leader, he refused to go in for a last-second postseason play that wasn’t designed for him. One-point-eight seconds left, Toni Kukoc the shooter. The ball goes in. Bulls win.

No matter. Pippen’s chance at alpha leadership became a zeta failure.

There are other Jordan dynamics that must eat at Pippen, his pride too strong to tolerate a quiet acceptance. It would have been hard to make Pippen the central character in ‘‘The Last Dance,’’ for instance — even had anybody wanted to — given that he missed 38 games that season. He was a great No. 2 player, an awesome sidekick. There’s worth there. But not to Pippen.

Jordan-brand shoes and apparel, in cahoots with Nike, have brought Jordan hundreds of millions of dollars. The Pippen brand? Something less.

Then, too, there is the odd fact that Jordan’s younger son, Marcus, 32, has been dating Scottie’s ex-wife, Larsa Pippen, 48. Larsa, a mother of four, has said she’ll change her last name to Jordan if she and Marcus marry.

Oh, it’s a tangled web between the two former Bulls, a lesson perhaps in the difficulty of strivers ever finding satisfaction in success or with each other. Scottie will not win this one. Nor should he.

Jordan has remained silent about the insults.

Pippen whittles away at himself. And it’s just plain sad.

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