Scottie Pippen has reiterated his dissatisfaction with Michael Jordan’s outsized influence on The Last Dance, the wildly popular ESPN/Netflix docuseries on the Chicago Bulls’ glory years of the 1990s.
Pippen, the Hall of Fame small forward and Jordan’s most important teammate during their run of six NBA championships in eight years, describes in a forthcoming memoir, Unguarded, that he “was nothing more than a prop” in the 10-part docuseries.
In an excerpt from Pippen’s book that appeared on GQ.com, Pippen said that The Last Dance minimizes the contributions of Jordan’s teammates to the Bulls dynasty and criticized a project the essentially granted final cut to its star.
“[T]hey glorified Michael Jordan while not giving nearly enough praise to me and my proud teammates,” Pippen wrote. “Michael deserved a large portion of the blame. The producers had granted him editorial control of the final product. The doc couldn’t have been released otherwise. He was the leading man and the director. … Except Michael was determined to prove to the current generation of fans that he was larger-than-life during his day – and still larger than LeBron James, the player many consider his equal, if not superior.
“Even in the second episode, which focused for a while on my difficult upbringing and unlikely path to the NBA, the narrative returned to MJ and his determination to win. I was nothing more than a prop. His ‘best teammate of all time’, he called me. He couldn’t have been more condescending if he tried.
“Each episode was the same: Michael on a pedestal, his teammates secondary, smaller, the message no different from when he referred to us back then as his ‘supporting cast’. From one season to the next, we received little or no credit whenever we won but the bulk of the criticism when we lost. Michael could shoot 6 for 24 from the field, commit 5 turnovers, and he was still, in the minds of the adoring press and public, the Errorless Jordan. … Now here I was, in my midfifties, seventeen years since my final game, watching us being demeaned once again. Living through it the first time was insulting enough.”
The seven-time NBA All-Star went on to write that Jordan was compensated with $10m for his participation in the project while he and his Bulls teammates received nothing, a fact that critics have said compromised its implied claim as to be definitive account.
The latest remarks from Pippen, who last month was named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team as one of the league’s greatest ever players, are hardly the first time he’s taken objection to last year’s ratings smash. He was said to be “beyond livid” at the time it aired and later told the Guardian that he’d told Jordan “he wasn’t too pleased” with the final product.
Pippen’s initial expression of discontent came one day after Horace Grant, the starting power forward on the Bulls’ first three championship teams, said the documentary was edited to make Jordan look better.
“I would say [the documentary was] entertaining, but we know, who was there as teammates, that about 90% of it [was] BS in terms of the realness of it,” Grant said in an interview on ESPN 1000’s Kap and Co radio show. “It wasn’t real – because a lot of things [Jordan] said to some of his teammates, that his teammates went back at him. But all of that was kind of edited out of the documentary, if you want to call it a documentary.”