Michael Jordan was ‘a horrible player’ before Bulls became ‘a team,’ Scottie Pippen says

For many, LeBron James cemented his status as the greatest men’s basketball player ever when he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in February.

That isn’t the case for Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, and it’s not because he believes his former Chicago Bulls teammate Michael Jordan is the GOAT, either.

“LeBron James will be the greatest statistical guy to ever play the game of basketball,” Pippen said on Stacey King’s “Gimme the Hot Sauce” podcast. “There’s no comparison. None. Does that make him the greatest player to ever play the game? I’ll leave that up for debate because I don’t believe there’s a great player because our team is a team game. One player can’t do it.

“I seen Michael Jordan before I went to play for the Bulls; you guys saw him play; he was a horrible player, he was horrible to play with. He was all one-on-one, he was shooting bad shots, and, all of a sudden, we become a team, and we start winning, and everyone forgot who he was.”

Pippen was drafted fifth overall in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics, then quickly shipped to the Bulls in a draft-night trade.

In the three years prior to Pippen’s arrival, the Bulls never missed the playoffs. Jordan was voted an All-Star starter all three seasons — most notably in 1987 when he led the league in scoring with 37.1 points per game.

To Pippen’s point, however, Jordan couldn’t get the Bulls past the first round of the postseason until Pippen’s rookie year, and didn’t win a championship until 1990, the year after Pippen was voted an All-Star for the first time. The two would go on to win six championships together.


It’s also true that Jordan was the most efficient version of himself when he played alongside Pippen. In his first three years, Jordan shot 50% from the field just one time. In his first five years playing with Pippen, he never shot below 50% from the field.

Does that mean Jordan was a horrible player before Pippen? No — it doesn’t even necessarily mean that Pippen made Jordan a better teammate, at least not any more than Phil Jackson or any of his other teammates did. What isn’t up debate is that the Bulls were extremely successful with Jordan and Pippen playing together as a dominant duo.

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