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When Scottie Pippen appeared to take a shot at Michael Jordan while praising Grant Hill

It seemed Scottie Pippen was craving to have his own team, and not be labeled as a sidekick.
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Detroit Pistons' Grant Hill

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Grant Hill

Grant Hill was one of those players who immediately raised eyebrows in his first year in the league. So much so that he was compared to Chicago Bulls' great Scottie Pippen. When asked if the comparisons are accurate, Pippen agreed but seemingly took subtle jabs at his teammate, Michael Jordan.

Looking in the mirror

On Christmas day in the 1996-97 NBA season, the Bulls faced the Detroit Pistons, with Chicago taking the victory, 95-83. The Pistons were off to a strong 20-6 start, and Hill, who coming off his Rookie of the Year campaign, continued to impress with his all-around game.

As usual, analysts tried to parse out Hill’s game by comparing him to current greats. He seemed to have similarities with Pippen, a guy known for his defensive chops and ability to make things happen in the fastbreak.

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"When I look at him, I see a lot of myself. He's a very talented player with an all-around game like mine. He finds the open shooters. He brings the ball up and gets them easy baskets in transition. Yeah, we're a lot alike,” Pippen said, per The Baltimore Sun.

Taking shots

Pippen saw with his own eyes how the Pistons integrated Hill into their system. Right from the get-go, he became the main man tasked to carry the young squad to greater heights. Pippen couldn’t help but look back at his introduction to the Bulls. When he entered the league in 1987 as the fifth overall pick, a guy named Michael Jordan was already the team’s head honcho.

"He's had an opportunity to get his career started a lot earlier than I did. When I came in here, I had a great superstar on my team. I was kind of eased into the picture while he's being thrown to the wolves. They're saying, 'Here, carry us and we're going to build a team around you,’” Pippen said.

It seems like an innocent comment from Pippen. But given what we know now, especially after Scottie's tirades against Jordan to promote his book last year, it seems that the Arkansas native wasn’t fully satisfied with his time in Chicago.

Let’s note that Pippen uttered those comments in the 1995-1996 season — Jordan’s first full season back after his first retirement. During Jordan’s absence, Pippen boosted stats to his career-high numbers: 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.9 steals. When Jordan returned, Pippen’s stats dropped back to 19 to 20 points per game.

The numbers seem trivial. But perhaps the star forward felt he was on the verge of stripping the “Jordan’s sidekick” label. Like every all-time great, Pippen wanted his own team. He wanted to prove he could win on his own, and not under the long shadow cast by Black Jesus.

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