Scottie Pippen never considered himself to be a clutch player. Not because he couldn’t—Pip had the skills to be the team's closer—but because the Chicago Bulls forward knew Michael Jordan would always be the one with the ball in his hands when it mattered the most.
Never the go-to guy
Speaking on ESPN’s “The Jump," Pippen jokingly but boldly admitted he didn’t have any “clutch genes” in his DNA because of Jordan. Was Pippen happy about it? It doesn’t really matter because, for Pippen, it was a mutual understanding between him and MJ.
“I’m not afraid to say that I don’t have clutch genes. I played with a guy that took all the clutch genes out of me [laughs],” Pippen said. “[But] Listen, you know what, it was a relationship that me and Michael had. A relationship where I knew where I wanted the ball at the end of the game, I knew who wanted the ball at the end of the game.”
Pippen also acknowledged the fact that taking the last shot was just part of Jordan’s regular duties back then, and there was nothing they could do about it.
“You would never see a game where Michael would be standing watching somebody take the last shot. That would just kill him,” he concluded.
Pippen knew he could make the last shot
On national TV, Pippen may just laugh about it. But during an exclusive interview in 2021, the Hall of Famer addressed the subject in a much more serious tone.
According to Pippen, he was insulted by Phil Jackson with how he handled the crucial moment of the infamous playoff matchup between the Chicago Bulls and the Knicks in 1994. With the game on the line, and with Jordan out, Pippen thought it was a no-brainer he would take the last shot with 1.8 seconds left. However, Jackson asked him to inbound the ball and let Toni Kukoc take it.
“It was my first year playing without Michael Jordan, why wouldn't I be taking that last shot? I been through all the ups and downs, the battles with the Pistons, and now you gonna insult me and tell me to take it out? I thought it was a pretty low blow. I felt like it was an opportunity to give [Kukoc] a rise. It was a racial move to give him a rise. After all I've been through with this organization, now you're gonna tell me to take the ball out and throw it to Toni Kukoc? You're insulting me. That's how I felt,” Scottie said.
Truth be told, being clutch may not be part of Pippen’s legacy, but nobody can deny that he’s still one of the greatest players of all time.