The Chicago Bulls from the ’90s are an NBA dynasty led by the dynamic duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Both of them were extremely versatile and probably one of the best two-way players in NBA history. On top of all that, they were extremely competitive, and demanding teammates who’re success was the product of spending countless hours in the gym. Practice makes perfect, and this is something both Jordan and Pippen lived by during their entire career, especially with the Bulls.
In an interview with David Friedman, Scottie Pippen elaborates on why he usually played against Jordan during practice. Pippen said that was all part of Phil Jackson’s philosophy and how he approached practice where he wanted to have as much balance as possible.
“Well, it was just great because it taught us how to compete at all times. That was part of Phil’s practice philosophy—to get two guys out there who wanted to win all the time and put us on separate teams. Now, you’ve got two guys who have to get their own group together; they have to use their leadership, not just their ability to do what they can do on the court. Ultimately it’s whose team wins gets the last laugh. That was one thing that made me and Michael the players we are today, the fact that we competed very hard in practice. It made the game very easy because it was just a carryover (from the practice court to the games).”Scottie Pippen, via 20secondtimeout
Pippen thinks playing against Jordan gave him and other teammates an edge when facing off against pretty much any opponent in the NBA at the time. The feeling of going against the best player in the NBA every day and even sometimes beating him give everyone a much needed emotional boost, especially before a big game. Pippen said the confidence goes through the roof after competing in the way the Bulls did every day in practice.
“I was used to seeing Michael Jordan on the other side (in practice). Not just giving myself credit, a lot of the guys who were on the court with me at that time (against Portland) were on the court with me during practice. We had a very good feeling, I guess confidence at that time, that we could compete with anybody. I mean, if you compete against Michael Jordan every day and you are able to beat him some days, then you feel like you can win most of the games every day.”Scottie Pippen, via 20secondtimeout
On top of that, ‘The Last Dance’ documentary showcased that Jordan kept everyone accountable and raised the bar of competitiveness in practice. Pippen, on the other hand, was characterized as a leader in his own right, but he had a softer approach to teammates and would talk to them on a more personal level. That sort of combination in leadership was one of the critical reasons for Bull’s success for so many years.