Unguarded – Scottie Pippen – The BeefLoaf Review

I was 12 years old on May 27, 1991 (about to turn 13 in a few weeks), but that’s when everything changed. That’s when the impossible seemed possible. It wasn’t even a World Championships victory, but it was the beginning. That thing that was standing in your way was now in the rearview mirror. The bully had been pummeled in an overwhelming fashion. That’s right, my single favorite Chicago sports victory, was the Bulls going to the Palace at Auburn Hills and sweeping the Pistons in game 4, 115-94.

It’s pretty difficult to explain to someone who didn’t experience it, just how big of a fucking event Bulls games used to be. You know how like everyone was tuned in to watch the Sopranos finale, or go back further, the Cheers or Mash or Dallas finales. Yea, that was a random Tuesday night Bulls game at Market Square Arena against the Pacers. EVERYONE WAS WATCHING!! In a town that is so fucking Bears crazy, this group of rock stars, deities if you will, just took everything over. It was unprecedented and unlikely to ever happen again. That’s why I can’t get enough of 90’s Bulls stuff.

One last thing before we start the review. I’m a HUGE Pippen stan. I loved his game. And as much as I loved Michael Jordan as well, I think Michael Jordan would’ve been Dominique Wilkins if Scottie Pippen never arrived in Chicago.

First Things First

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – SEPTEMBER 01: Former NBA player Scottie Pippen speaks during a press conference as part of Heat Fest at Citibanamex Center on September 01, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Carlos Tischler/Getty Images)

No, Scottie did not read the audible version of this book. LOL. Every time I told someone I was listening to this book, they asked if Scottie was the narrator. I’ll be honest, despite JD Jackson doing a great job narrating, my brain would sometimes slip into hearing Scottie read the lines, particularly at the portions in the book when he’s making a strong point.

Why did Scottie write this?

Pretty much for this reason. Not to throw shade at Jon, I enjoy his work. My reading (listening) of the book is that Pippen wrote the book materially feeling that the media pitted him as the occasional villain in the Michael Jordan story. He’s not really wrong. When I anecdotally surveyed the socials response about this book, it was materially anti-Pippen sentiment. Why? Well, probably a lot of reasons, but one main reason is that Jordan’s brand building and the medias extremely helpful assist made it that way.

Pippen doesn’t go out of his way to smear Jordan in this book. Does he paint a less rosy picture than “The Last Dance”? Of course. “The Last Dance” (and I fucking loved it!) was a Michael Jordan documentary. Pip is pretty frank about pointing out Mike’s short comings…but what he did even more often was point out his own. Think of this as the Scottie Pippen story, which it is, but he bodies the media for their portrayal of him and Michael, more than he’s an anti-Michael stan or something.

Mind you, I don’t think there was anything nefarious about the media coverage of Michael Jordan in Chicago. Everyone saw the greatness, they saw the incredible brand building, they saw their meal ticket and took it. So what if Pippen didn’t get his share, thems the grits.

Oh and probably for the money too.

Why should I read this?

Picture from NBA.com

Well, Pippen’s modest upbringing in Arkansas and early family life are well worth knowing for any 90’s Bulls fan. His mom was quite the dynamo. The man suffered a lot of hardships, but you can see how and why Pippen developed the game he did and became the teammate he became. It is also very interesting to endure the rollercoaster ride that was his post high school playing career and the rocket ship that landed him in the lottery in the 1987 NBA Draft. The stories were fresh to me, even a team associate driving him around Hawaii so that other teams couldn’t talk to him. Oh man, the arcane 80’s NBA. LOL. The showcases, the draft day drama. All of it were so fun to listen to.

Listening to Pip wax poetic about the beauty of team basketball. About Tex Winter and the triangle offense. About Phil’s commitment to understanding his personnel and getting the most out of them and his ability to dissect an opponent are all great listens. He also talks about what he deemed unfair treatment of Johnny Bach. And I know the White Sox fans will love Pippen coming to grips with the fact that it wasn’t Jerry Krause that was the bad guy, he was actually alright (and they shouldn’t have given him so much shit) it was Jerry Reinsdorf that was the real problem. LOL!

Pippen also goes into great detail about performances of his teammates and their contributions in big games. I felt this book went deeper than the Last Dance did on some of these topics and I was appreciative of that. Pippen is deeply passionate about basketball as one might imagine and he walks you through his mentality and what it was like to be in the trenches as the team is improving and eventually becoming a World Champion.

None of these accomplishments are lost on Pippen as he’s both arrogant about his standing and grateful to be recognized in those hallowed circles. I really enjoyed the additional stuff about the Dream Team and how he thought Dominique Wilkins should’ve been on that team instead of Christian Laettner, as well as how he noted that Clyde Drexler was always trying to BE LIKE MIKE, instead of just being Clyde. Fun stories.

Anything else?

Yes, A few more parting thoughts..

Scottie defends Michael more than you’d think

Scottie pushes back hard on one of the few real media criticism of Michael Jordan, which was the gambling in Atlantic City during the Knicks series. Scottie not only defended Michael’s right to do so as a grown adult, but noted that Michael was always on-time for team meetings and practices and ready to play!

I also enjoyed when Pip noted that during the Dream Team in Barcelona in 1992, Michael, always the alpha dog, was deferential to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the alpha dog hierarchy. I thought that was a very nice insight by Scottie and something that I enjoyed hearing. You hear all of the Mike stories, but he was still respectful to his elders. Pretty cool.

The Bulls Medical Staff has always stunk

Long before the Bulls tried to give Luol Deng a spinal tap or could never figure out how to rehab Derrick Rose, they were making some hilarious gaffs. Even The Last Dance covered the goofy stuff with Michael Jordan, the super long time off and then the silly minutes limits. I had totally forgotten that Pippen’s back was fucked early in his career. The Bulls doctors seemed to miss on this one as well and Pip didn’t actually get better until finding a second opinion to diagnose and treat him properly. Wild stuff.

Doug Collins should’ve been fired sooner

Picture from the Chicago Tribune

One of the funniest / frustratingest (is that a word?) parts of the book was the section where Doug Collins is the head coach. I remember some of this stuff from hearing the old Boers and Bernstein Show on 670 the Score talk about it, but I also might have just repressed certain parts.

As a youth, I always felt bad for Doug getting fired when he did, knowing this team was really coming into his own. But after this book, I was reminding / alerted to several reasons why Doug should’ve been fired even earlier.

1 – He would sometimes be so mad after a loss that he would walk back to the hotel instead of riding the team bus

These days, that behavior isn’t as easily tolerated, particularly not by a head coach…sheesh.

2 – He let Michael Jordan do whatever he wanted including just quit mid-practice for a temper tantrum

I’m fine with the superstar getting different treatment, but some of the accounts in this book (and things openly corroborated in the media) were fucking ridiculous. It’s got to be tough to win a title with that shit going on.

3 – He played Brad Sellers over Pippen, FUCKING BRAD SELLERS!!!

Brad Sellers was a 7’1″ small forward out of Ohio State…..and boy did he suck! I know this card says Center, but let’s be real he would’ve gotten his fucking ass kicked in the paint by the late 80’s class of NBA Centers. Nothing against Brad, he just didn’t pan out, but the fact that Doug was playing him in minutes that could’ve been developing Pippen is ridiculous. The funny part about the book was that Pip wasn’t even really mad about it. I’m far more fucking steamed about it than he was. Even now writing this shit!

Pippen’s Big Regret

Scotty detailed many situations where he failed himself, his teammates, his family throughout this book. He seemed to be unabashedly honest about a lot of stuff. The one thing that sticks with me though is that he is clearly still regretting not calling Michael Jordan after Jordan’s father passed away. Not because he necessarily wants to be buddy buddy with Jordan, you can tell in the book that it’s not a huge priority to him, but because Pippen sees himself as the consummate teammate. The anti-Jordan if you will when it comes to soft skills and being there for his fellow competitor and in the biggest possible moment, with the biggest possible teammate, in a situation in which he was uniquely qualified to help (Pip’s dad had passed away previously), he failed big time.

The migraine game, the back injuries, the off-season surgery right up at the start of the season, numerous poor playoff performances, his failed first marriage, even the 1.8 seconds (which he still hilariously thinks he’s right about) are small potatoes compared to what seems like a failure of one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest players, at his favored skill, being a teammate.

A lot of people tend to paint Pippen in a derogatory light, but I never will. This man brought me great joy watching him perform his craft and he just wants to be remembered for his greatness. I appreciated this read, faults and all, and just one last chance to go through a very fun time in my sports watching life.

-BeefLoaf

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