Now That’s P
Gatorade brings us the great Scottie Pippen.
Last week, Ben got a pretty cool package from Gatorade in the mail: a cooler with “23: Then. Now. Forever.” printed on top if it. Inside was a Sony Reader (complete with an audio message from Michael Jordan), a Gatorade towel and the main pay off: a collection of new Gatorade bottles that are coming out in honor of MJ’s upcoming induction into the Hall of Fame. Lucky for Ben, a lapsed collector of MJ memorabilia, one of the bottles was even autographed by the man himself.
In the days that followed the cooler’s arrival, we learned more about what Gatorade was up to, and last night brought one of the payoffs: Gatorade and Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, along with a select group of local MJ fans, gathered at a South Side basketball court at the corners of S. State and 18th Streets, to help create, in Gatorade’s words, “a stunning ‘street art’ tribute to Jordan made from 19,000 bottles of the new Limited Edition Jordan Series of Gatorade® Thirst Quencher. This unique street lights up to reveal a portrait of Michael Jordan that will be featured in an upcoming Gatorade ad celebrating Jordan’s career—then, now and forever.”
The event represented a cool homecoming of sorts for Pip, the Arkansas native who got a slow start to his basketball career but took off after becoming the fifth pick in the ’87 Draft and then being traded to the Bulls, where he’d serve as the greatest teammate MJ ever had.
A member of the original Dream Team, six Championship teams, the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players list and SLAM’s New Top 50, Scottie was glad to help Gatorade with its celebration. With Gatorade unveiling three new flavors and six new MJ—then, now and forever—labels, Pip helped commemorate the special night by helping “build” a gorgeous work of street art made of 19,000 Gatorades. Immediately before Pippen undertook the honor of placing one of the freshly labeled bottles—one that features him supporting Jordan after the famous “Flu Game” of ’97—atop the Gatorade/MJ mosaic, he was gracious enough to take a few minutes to speak with us.
SLAM: What have you been up to since you retired from the League, Mr. Pippen?
Scottie Pippen: Well, just kind of traveling around for the League, doing some work for the League. Mostly, I’m just promoting basketball in different towns, moving around, doing clinics and things like that.
SLAM: You’re working with Gatorade today to commemorate Michael Jordan reaching the Hall-of-Fame and the six limited edition labels that Gatorade put together in his honor. One of these labels, the fifth, shows you hugging and supporting Michael after that famous “Flu Game” in the ’97 Finals. What do you remember about that game and that night?
SP: Well, I just remember him being pretty sick and not even thinking he was gonna come out and play. But he was able to pull himself through it and really just [launch] probably one of his greatest performances under the influences of taking drugs—medication, I should say—for his sickness. He was still able to come out and, probably, have his best performance on the basketball court.
SLAM: Obviously that game and that series are among your career highlights. Can you name a few other moments that have stuck with you over the years?
SP: Looking back at when we played against Indiana, me and him (MJ) had 40 points a piece that night, or 40-plus points—I don’t even remember the exact number [Pippen scored 40 points and Jordan added 44 points against the Pacers on February 18, 1996]. That was probably one of my other highlights with him. And just winning championships. There is nothing that really topples that.
SLAM: You’re eligible for the Hall-of-Fame next year. What do you think about possibly making it first ballot?
SP: I’m hoping that I can slide in. You never know with those voters, so it’s something I can’t control. If I get in on the first ballot, great. If not, I’ll just have to sit back and wait.
SLAM: It’s been 22 years since you were drafted, if you can believe that—
SP: [Groans and whistles]
SLAM: What do you miss most about the NBA?
SP: Actually, I really don’t miss much. I think the game gave me a lot more than I could give it. I enjoyed my time. I had a long career, a pretty healthy career. There’s nothing that you miss when you felt like you’ve gotten everything out of it.
SLAM: After Chicago, and winning six championships in Chicago, you went to Houston and then on to Portland. How frustrating was it to be so close and yet so far that first year with the Blazers in 2000 [when Portland blew a 15-point lead in Game 7 of the WC Finals against the Lakers]?
SP: That was probably the most frustrating thing. That was my first year there and I didn’t feel like I had a real good grasp on the leadership there. That really showed in the latter part of the season, that we didn’t have much leadership and that our chemistry wasn’t as good as Phil [Jackson] had developed with his Lakers team.
SLAM: If you could compare the talent from some of the teams you played on: the Bulls always had you and MJ and a nice backdrop of talent, but that Blazers team had you, Rasheed, Damon [Stoudamire], Steve Smith, Bonzi Wells, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anothony and the list keeps going…
SP: I’ve always said that was probably one of the most talented teams I’ve ever played with as far as the roster. We had guys that were capable of playing; we had 15 guys that were capable of being starters on any team in the League. So we were very strong and that team should have been a championship team. But you gotta have more than just talent to win a championship.
SLAM: You’re last year ['03-04], you came back to the Bulls and retired with them. How much did that mean to you?
SP: It meant a lot. I think it really sort of mended a relationship that had fallen apart a little bit.
SLAM: What do you hope to accomplish now that you’re done with the playing aspect of the NBA? What do you hope to accomplish with the rest of your life?
SP: I’m hoping maybe to get back into the game and into coaching over the next few years. But I’ve been really working hard with the League and traveling internationally, so I’ve really embraced and taken a liking to that because it allows me to still have my freedom and spend time with my family.
SLAM: In what capacity are you working for the NBA?
SP: More or less just traveling internationally, doing clinics, things like that and Basketball Without Borders camps in all parts of the world.
SLAM: Before you came to the NBA, as a kid, could you imagine yourself traveling the globe talking about basketball?
SP: No, no I really couldn’t imagine it. But it’s been something I’ve enjoyed. And I’ve enjoyed the fact that I have an opportunity to go across the world and meet fans and go across the world and really see how big basketball is worldwide.
SLAM: Obviously you believe that the combo of you and Jordan had a big part in spreading the game.
SP: Yeah. Yeah, I really do. A lot of fans really embraced the game back then. The League sold a lot of rights, in terms of expanding the game of basketball to international markets.
SLAM: On behalf of myself and SLAM, thank you very much, Mr. Pippen.