The first two episodes of ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary continue to be the main topic in the NBA circles. One of the central focuses of the events was Scottie Pippen’s feud with Jerry Krause. Pippen was underpaid and wanted to renegotiate a contract he signed in 1991. but Krause was planning a rebuild and wanted to trade Pippen. Scottie’s decision to undergo foot surgery in October 1997 rather than have the procedure done during the summer was a culmination of frustration towards the front office and a way to protect his value for free agency.
“Scottie was wrong in that scenario. He could’ve got his surgery done as soon as the season was over and be ready for the season. What Scottie was trying to do was trying to force management to change his contract. And Jerry Reinsdorf was never going to do that.”
Michael Jordan, The Last Dance
But not all the Bulls would agree with MJ. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was a teammate of Jordan and Pippen during a historic run in the 90s. Kerr witnessed all the drama that was surrounding the team, and stood up for his teammate.
“We felt his frustration. He probably should have been the second-highest-paid guy in the NBA or top-five. So we all felt for him; nobody resented him for having that surgery. Later, we all understood, let’s give him his space, and he’s going to be there for the second stretch of the season for us.”
Steve Kerr, The Jump
Pippen, who was the second-best player on the team behind Michael Jordan, was only the 6th highest-paid on that Bulls roster. He was playing out the extension he had signed in 1991 after the Bulls won their first championship. Scottie was the 122nd highest-paid player in the NBA in ‘97-98 but was easily one of the best players in the league. His decision to have surgery in October was a message to the front office to stop taking him for granted and to engage in talks about the contract negotiation.
Kerr also talked about Pippen being “a counter-balance to MJ being tough on his teammates and the one who made them all feel comfortable and confident,” which is why all of Pippen’s teammates understood and supported his decision regarding the surgery. Well, all of them except Jordan. His only focus was on the championship, not paying much attention to anything outside of three-peating again.
In the end, it all turned out well for all involved. The Bulls won their six championships in 8 years, Jerry Krause started the rebuild, Jordan announced his retirement from basketball for a second time, and Pippen finally received the payout he deserved, signing a $67 million contract with the Houston Rockets.