Even though he went through growing pains during his rookie season, Scottie Pippen, an anonymous from the University of Central Arkansas, already showed flashes of brilliance at the forward spot. The Chicago Bulls quickly realized that they have indeed found a diamond in the rough.
He didn't start any games for the 1987-88 Bulls during the regular season (averaging 7.9ppg, 3.8rpg, and 2.1apg) but the Bulls head coach Doug Collins decided to use 22-year versatile rookie as a tactical surprise starting him at six out of ten Bulls postseason game sin 1988 NBA playoffs.
Playing 29.4 minutes per game during the postseason Pip blossomed and responded with the increased statistical averages of 10.0ppg, 5.2rpg, and 2.4ppg, while also increasing his free-throw percentage from 57.6% during the regular season to 71.4% during the playoffs.
In the decisive Game 5 of the Eastern Conference 1st Round, he would score 24 points to go along with 6 boards, 5 dimes, and 3 steals and help put aside rising Eastern powerhouse, Cleveland Cavaliers, the team Chicago would eventually eliminate in 1988, 1989, 1992, and 1993 NBA playoffs.
One of his highlights of that series came in the form of the incredible put-back dunk over Larry Nance, Cavs high-flying forward who came in from Phoenix Suns just a couple of months earlier, and was traditionally one of the League's leaders in dunks but also in blocked shots (2.4bpg in 1987-88 reg.season).
In the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bulls would face physically dominant Detroit Pistons. But even at the peak of the Pistons physical dominance, Pippen's play would not fade - in the last three games of that series, he would average 12.0ppg while hitting 52.7% of his field goals.
It was Jordan who recognized in Pippen someone who would not back down from the Pistons. Each time The Bad Boys from Detroit put Chicago's dreams on a summer sleep, the very next morning, Jordan would pick up Pippen, and Gotham's Batman & Robin would go on to the gym, relentlessly working whole summer to improve their game with their minds set on the Pistons.
Pippen would eventually mature as a player at the turn of the decade, becoming an All-Star (1990) and Olympian (1992), thus helping the Chicago Bulls dethrone the NBA Champions Detroit Pistons in 1991, and take the first out of six NBA Championship rings of the 1991-1998 Untouchabulls era.
Marjan Crnogaj is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.