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Inside the Deterioration of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s Friendship

Photo Credit: Carlos Tischler / Getty Images and  Aurelien Meunier / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Carlos Tischler / Getty Images and Aurelien Meunier / Getty Images

In recent years, retired NBA player Scottie Pippen has been open about his friendship with former teammate Michael Jordan, which seems to be slowly deteriorating. While there are likely many factors going on behind the scenes, it seems Jordan’s docuseries might have put a wedge between the two. Pippen has been vocal about his opinion of Jordan as a man and as a basketball player.

Pippen and Jordan were teammates and champions for years

Between 1987 and 1997, Pippen and Jordan played alongside one another on the Chicago Bulls, establishing one of the NBA’s greatest dynasties. Through their hard work, the team won six championships with two three-peats, leading both Jordan and Pippen’s inductions into the Hall of Fame. The two have been longtime friends, as that period in their life helped foster a strong relationship both on and off the court.

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago Bulls Jerseys on the court.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls talk during the final minutes of their game against the Miami Heat at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, 1997. (Photo Credit: VINCENT LAFORET / AFP / Getty Images)

Pippen described this friendship, saying, “That relationship, we established that we felt like that in the late 80s, playing against the Pistons, just starting to grow and mature and have each other’s backs. We grew up together and we defended each other. That respect we had on the court, that competitiveness we took through to the top – it was special. That was the respect we had for each other, because we had to be on the court to do what we did. We had to be dominant.”

Jordan’s documentary seemed to harm their friendship

Jordan’s 2020 Netflix documentary series, The Last Dance, seemed to put a major strain on their friendship, sparking its deterioration. In the series, Jordan shared his opinion of Pippen, saying, “I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen, and that’s why I consider him my best teammate of all time… Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen.” However, despite these nice words, the series still upset Pippen.

Michael Jordan sitting beside Scottie Pippen, his hand to his chin.
Former players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls watch as the Bulls take on the Charlotte Bobcats at the United Center on February 15, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

Pippen released his memoirUnguarded, in 2021. In it, he wrote, “They glorified Michael Jordan while not giving nearly enough praise to me and my proud teammates.” In The Last Dance, Pippen felt that Jordan didn’t give enough praise to their other teammates who were also integral to the Bulls’ NBA success. “Michael deserved a large portion of the blame [for that]. 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.”

Commenting on the series in 2020, Pippen explained, “I don’t think it was that accurate in terms of really defining what was accomplished in one of the greatest eras of basketball, but also by two of the greatest players — and one could even put that aside and say the greatest team of all time.” Instead, he felt it was just a means to praise Jordan. “I didn’t think those things stood out in the documentary. I thought it was more about Michael trying to uplift himself and to be glorified. I think it also backfired to some degree in that people got a chance to see what kind of personality Michael had.”

Pippen said that he wasn’t shy in telling Jordan his opinion of the series, which Jordan seemed pretty passive about. “He accepted it,” Pippen explained. “He said, ‘Hey, you’re right.’ That was pretty much it.”

Pippen said Jordan was a ‘horrible player’

Pippen appeared on an episode of Stacey King’s Gimme the Hot Sauce podcast, and he elaborated on the strain between himself and Jordan. When discussing his former teammate, Pippen didn’t really have many nice things to say. “I’ve seen Michael Jordan play before I came to the Bulls. You guys have seen him play. He was a horrible player. He was horrible to play with. It was all 1-on-1, shooting bad shots,” he said. “All of a sudden, we become a team, and we start winning. Everybody forgot who he was. He was a player who was really not at the top of his category. It was scoring.”

Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan in Chicago Bulls uniforms on a basketball court.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls walk up court against the Washington Bullets during an NBA basketball game circa 1992 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. (Photo Credit: Focus on Sport / Getty Images)

Later in the podcast, Pippen called LeBron James “the greatest statistical guy to ever play the game of basketball,” adding, “There’s no comparison to him, none.” While this may sound like he’s bashing Jordan’s legacy in the game, Pippen also explained that there can be no player that is the “greatest of all time” (G.O.A.T.). “I don’t believe there is a greatest player cause our game is a team game. One player can’t do it,” he said.

Pippen’s ex-wife is now dating Jordan’s son

Basketball fans have speculated that the romantic relationship between Pippen’s ex-wife, Larsa Pippen, and Jordan’s son, Marcus Jordan, may be causing even more strain between the former Bulls. Pippen and Larsa married in 1997 and shared more than 21 years of marriage. They welcomed four children together, Scotty Jr., Preston, Justin, and Sophia. However, in 2018, the couple split, with their divorce being finalized in 2021.

Scottie Pippen and Larsa Pippen sitting at a dinner table.
Larsa Pippen and Scottie Pippen attend the Haute Living NBA All Star Dinner Honoring Scottie Pippen on February 15, 2018 in Bel Air, California. (Photo Credit: Phillip Faraone / Getty Images for Haute Living)

Larsa and Marcus’s relationship began in September 2022, and many people believe that it has caused a “weird dynamic” in Pippen and Jordan’s friendship. In an interview with Andy Cohen, Larsa addressed this concern, saying, “I feel like a lot of people don’t understand, like, I didn’t know him [back then]. I just met him a few years ago. I never met him before. I was with Scottie the very last year that he played with Michael.”

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She continued, saying, “Michael and his wife were going through a divorce, so I never met his wife, never met his kids. It wasn’t like we had families that were intertwined. I never knew them.” When Cohen said that some people may think their relationship is “wild,” she responded by saying, “I mean, I guess, yeah. But I think a lot of people think that our families were really close and intertwined, and they really weren’t. Like I never really knew Marcus’ mom or them; I just recently met them a couple of years ago.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!