Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are probably the best 1-2 punch in NBA history. Even though they had tremendous success during their time with the Chicago Bulls, that success didn’t happen immediately. It took some time for them to evolve, gain experience, and learn how to play with each other. Since Jordan was older and already established himself as one of the best players in the league, he was the one who immediately saw tremendous potential in Pippen.
The late great Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause remembered how their practices were more fun than the actual games because of Jordan yelling at Pippen most of the time and telling him how he would kick his a**. At a very early age, Pippen already showed tremendous talent to become a great player, but he was still young, and his focus was on a lot of things that were not related to basketball and getting better at his craft.
“My first year or two, I admit that I messed around a lot,” Pippen once disclosed. “I partied, enjoyed wealth, and didn’t take basketball as seriously as I should have.”
Jordan knew Pippen still needs time to develop, and he compared his game to one of the legendary Dr.J because of his leaping ability and getting to the basket extremely fast. It was Jordan's task as the leader of the team to motivate Scottie to turn him into a player he is often remembered.
“Even though his body wasn’t there, you could see signs,” Jordan recalled. “As an open-Court player, he was so much like Dr.J. He’d get the ball on the break with those long strides and next thing you know he’s at the basket. I think it took people by surprise to see how quickly he progressed and how his body responded to the style of play.”
Phil Jackson who coached them both for 8 years said Pippen was lucky that he was able to guard Michael every day in practice which obviously made him a better player. It's also important to understand that Pippen had the mental toughness to go against Jordan every day in practice and never backed down. Jordan would often trash-talk his teammates, in order for them to improve and give their maximum. That obviously happened with Pippen who become one of the all-time great two-way players.
“Guarding Michael in practice every day also turned Scottie into a formidable defender.”