The Scottie Pippen Problem: Are the Stories You’re Choosing to Share Hurting Your Personal Brand?

Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the greatest player in NBA history. Scottie Pippen, who played alongside Michael for an entire decade with the 90’s Chicago Bulls teams, deserves more credit than he’s getting.

But the story that Scottie is now telling in 2021 through his new book and recent media appearances isn’t helping his cause any.

That’s due to the fact that attacking Michael Jordan, the one individual who is considered by many to be the greatest professional athlete of all time, isn’t a good idea.

Firstly it makes Scottie sound like a bitter old man who’s stuck in the past.

Secondly, whilst his contemporaries went on to develop their “second act” after retiring from being basketball players Scottie hasn’t really done much in that regard.

There are many success stories where former NBA athletes have gone on to become successful coaches and business owners once their careers were finished – Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, and Mark Jackson come to mind as a few examples.

Even the late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant went on to win an Academy Award for his short film, “Dear Basketball,” after a career in the limelight.

What’s Scottie Pippen done in that regard? It looks like he hasn’t really developed himself much since retiring from playing basketball.

The fact is, Scottie will always be remembered for being the guy who was Michael Jordan’s sidekick on those great Chicago Bulls teams – what do you expect when you’re playing next to arguably the greatest of all time?

Nobody is debating what Scottie Pippen was able to accomplish during his NBA career. The stats speak for themselves:

  • Six NBA Championship rings with Chicago Bulls from 1991 to 1998.
  • Seven time NBA All Star – 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998 seasons .
  • Named NBA Top 50 player of all time (in 2011), and this year named one of the NBA’s Top 75 players of all time.
  • All-NBA First Team (1994)
  • All-NBA Second Team (1992, 1993, 1996, 1998).
  • Third in MVP voting for the 1994 season.
  • All-Defensive First Team (1994, 1995)
  • Led the league in steals
  • Two Team USA gold medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games

Where Scottie Pippen has gone wrong: focusing on the wrong narrative

In his new book and recent media appearances, Scottie has publicly called out Michael Jordan as being “selfish” and only looking after his own ego-driven interests.

At the start of the pandemic when NBA teams and fans were in limbo, Netflix aired a multi-part documentary series about the final season of the 90’s Bulls dynasty titled “The Last Dance”. The series featured never-before-seen interviews and footage.

Scottie contends that “The Last Dance” had more to do with Michael feeling threatened by the rising popularity of current NBA superstar Lebron James and reminding younger generations of sports fans that he was the greatest. That the documentary, which was billed as a behind-the-scenes look at the final season of the historical Chicago Bulls team and their final run together, was simply a puff piece.

Having seen the documentary (random fact – it’s what got me to sign up for Netflix in the first place), I do agree that Scottie Pippen might not have been painted in the best light. At the same time, the 10-part documentary series was absolute must-see TV (still is in my opinion).

It shed some light on different parts of Pippen’s story that I never knew about such as his family situation, the bad contract that he signed because he wanted to look after his family first, and that time that he lost it during a must-win playoff game when Coach Phil Jackson drew up a play for Toni Kukoc instead of him. History proved that Jackson made the right play as Kukoc hit the shot that won the game and moved the Bulls forward in the playoffs.

Former NBA player and now analyst Jay Williams adds his 2c about how he felt Pippen was portrayed in The Last Dance here:

So I’m not surprised that after mostly staying silent throughout the whole The Last Dance premiere, Scottie is now hitting back with his own narrative.

Here’s Scottie Pippen sitting down with GQ’s Tyler Tynes to discuss his book, ‘Unguarded,’ Michael Jordan, and ‘The Last Dance.’

Here’s an excerpt from Scottie Pippen’s memoir “Unguarded” published in GQ:

On and on it went, the spotlight shining on number 23. 

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. 

On second thought, I could believe my eyes. I spent a lot of time around the man. I knew what made him tick. How naïve I was to expect anything else. 

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.

Related: Scottie Pippen Has Something to Say

Now did slamming his legendary teammate sell more of Scottie’s books? It seems to have worked.

Oh and he’s promoting his own bourbon too.

Now, what’s all this negative talk about his former teammate actually doing to Scottie’s reputation?

When you challenge the greatest of all time, you’ve got to expect a lot of backlash. NBA fans, love them or hate them, will remember certain things about your career and they won’t let you forget it.

Here are a couple of comments posted on youtube under this video about Scottie Pippen’s comments.

So what are other former and current NBA players, and NBA commentators saying about all this?

Here’s what former Bulls teammate and centre Bill Wennington had to say:

Here’s the ESPN crew including Chicago Bulls writer Michael Wilbon sharing their thoughts:

Respected NBA Analyst Chris Broussard from THE ODD COUPLE podcast with Rob Parker commented:

“Of course nobody thought Scottie Pippen was as good as Michael Jordan – he wasn’t! Of course, nobody is saying Scottie Pippen is a top 10 player. He wasn’t. But he was top 50, obviously top 75. He’s a Hall of Famer first ballot. He’s regarded as an all-time great. One of the greatest perimeter defenders we’ve ever seen. He gets his love or he got his. I think now people are looking at him like he’s Looney Tunes.”

Watch the full segment from Chris Broussard and Rob Parker’s show here:

A better story for Scottie Pippen to tell

In the following video, First Things First analyst Nick Wright says “Unfortunately, Scotty, is his worst spokesperson.”

Nick says however that Scottie can indeed tell a more compelling story:

“There is a case to be made for Pippen who never missed a playoff game, who was always available, always took on the hardest defensive assignment. Who when Michael was there never complained about getting shots or anything like that (that only happened after Michael), who always did the dirty work. Does Scotty win six titles without Michael? No, but does Michael win six titles without Scotty? Absolutely not. That’s the case to be made.”

Watch Nick’s full argument here:

Incidentally, here’s a video of Michael Jordan at a press session during the 1997 NBA finals talking about Scottie Pippen and how he felt that Scottie deserved more recognition and more money.

What story are YOU telling?

As you can see from this Scottie Pippen example, the stories that you are choosing to share with your personal brand can affect how people view you.

If your content is focused on being negative about others, then it looks like you’re trying to tear them down in order to build yourself up.

At worst, if the story isn’t true or based in reality – for example, Scottie’s claims about Michael Jordan – then it could have serious consequences for both of their careers and personal brands moving forward.

You need to be aware of what message you want people who look at your personal brand online to take away from reading/watching your content. That includes social media posts as well as any written blog posts that try and tell a bigger picture behind why certain things happened etc… You want people to see the positive personal brand that you’re trying to build.

The personal branding story should be authentic, and without any harmful intent behind it. If your content is based on stories about others that are not true or purposefully negative in order for you to look better by comparison – such as Scottie Pippen’s recent claims about Michael Jordan – then think twice before publishing them online (or in a book like Scottie has done).

Now it’s your turn

What’s your take on the Scottie Pippen situation? Do you agree with his approach to try and tear down Michael Jordan? Let me know in the comments.

If you’re struggling with personal branding, or are unsure of the story you want to tell, contact me for help! I can provide guidance and support as you develop your personal brand.

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