NBA basketball in the ’90s was not only the golden era of great basketball and players but also a time when trash talking was allowed to a certain degree and a crucial part of the game. It was always a big part of many rivalries, but in this case, specifically the one between the NY Knicks and Chicago Bulls. So, this situation between Scottie Pippen and Larry Johnson at that time was a typical exchange between two rival players.
Before the start of the regular season back in 1997, Pippen made some comments about the Knick’s terrible moves in the offseason, as they got worse and lost their toughness. Mostly because they replaced Anthony Mason with Larry Johnson. Pippen doubled down later in the season:
“He’s garbage. He might as well have been sitting over there with Spike Lee. All he’s doing is being a cheerleader for them. He’s trying to get the monkey off his back.”
But then in another matchup between their teams’ that season, it was Larry’s turn to talk, as Johnson decided to add even more fuel to the fire of the Bulls-Knicks rivalry. Pippen finished that game with just 14 points while shooting 4 for 18 from the field. Johnson didn’t have the best game also, only scoring 7 points, but took credit for shutting down Pippen.
“He needs to shut his mouth now,” Johnson said after locking Pippen up in New York’s 97-93 victory at Madison Square Garden.” All he needs to do is to give the ball to 23. That’s his best play right there. ‘Here, 23. Bail us out.’ He needs to shut his mouth. He’s a bum He shut himself down. Mike gives all them boys guts over there. If it wasn’t for Mike . . .”
Pippen didn’t hold back either as their trash-talking went back and forth. It didn’t take long for Pippen to undermine Johnson by bringing back Anthony Mason, who indeed was one the cornerstones of that Knicks team.
“Is he better than Mason? You tell me. He can’t play any defense, so they had to go to the small lineup. Since I didn’t have a great game shooting-wise, he said he deserved credit, but you take Patrick out of the lineup, and he’s probably one of the worst defenders in the game.”
Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy took his players’ side as he also commented on Pippen’s statements by saying Jordan carried him throughout his career.
“Having 23 on your side allows you to get very cocky,” Jeff Van Gundy said of Michael Jordan.” He’s an excellent player, but, you know, he didn’t go 4 for 18 in the last quarter. He went 4 for 18 over the whole game. He says Larry doesn’t play defense. I would say it’s just another person underestimating him.”