Hoops legend Scottie Pippen, who spent much of his career as Michael Jordan’s running mate on the Chicago Bulls, has been making the media rounds this week, giving interviews to GQ, The Dan Le Batard Show and Yahoo Sports to promote his new bourbon. While Steve Kerr recently posited that Kevin Durant (who averaged a remarkable 35.4 points during Brooklyn’s second-round series with Milwaukee) is more “gifted” than Jordan was, Pippen isn’t ready to make that leap, nor is he willing to concede that Durant is the best player in today’s game. “LeBron James knows team basketball better than KD,” Pippen expressed to GQ’s Tyler P. Tynes. “KD is a shooter, a scorer. But he doesn’t have what LeBron has.”
While most sports fans marveled at Durant’s seismic performance against the Bucks, coming within literal inches of sending the shorthanded Nets to the conference finals despite injuries to Kyrie Irving and James Harden, Pippen wasn’t impressed, lamenting Durant’s frustrating affinity for “hero ball,” particularly late in games. "He tried to beat the Milwaukee Bucks instead of utilizing his team,” said Pippen, a six-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. “LeBron James would’ve figured out how to beat them and he wouldn’t have been exhausted and he may not have taken the last shot.”
Durant, whose antennas go up whenever a media figure says something even remotely critical about him, caught wind of Pippen’s comments, clapping back at the Hall-of-Fame forward by recounting to his 19 million Twitter followers the time Pippen refused to re-enter a game after coach Phil Jackson drew up a play for Toni Kukoc instead of him.
The play Durant is referring to occurred during the 1994 NBA Playoffs. Pippen had emerged as Chicago’s go-to scorer that season (Michael Jordan was taking a sabbatical to play minor-league baseball) and expected to have the ball in his hands with 1.8 seconds against the Knicks. When Jackson called on Kukoc to take the last shot, Pippen sulked, opting to sit out the final possession.
This incident was chronicled in episode seven of The Last Dance, an ESPN documentary about the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty that debuted during last year’s COVID pandemic. Similarly, a disgruntled Pippen, fed up with management for ignoring his contract demands, staged a pseudo-holdout in 1997-98, intentionally putting off surgery until right before the season. During this time, Pippen also requested a trade but ultimately relented, rejoining the team in January.
Durant’s penchant for social-media trolling has gotten him in trouble over the years, but in this particular instance, he has a point. Whether Durant measures up to Jordan or LeBron is a matter of opinion, but after some of the stunts he pulled in Chicago, Pippen is a textbook example of why people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.