Most people regard Scottie Pippen as Michael Jordan's sidekick. This belief doesn't exactly sit well with Dennis Rodman, who praised his former teammate by labeling him as the best player alive after MJ's first retirement.
"When Michael Jordan left in '93, '94, '95, Scottie Pippen was the best player in the world. And people didn't know that. He led the team in every category, every category," Rodman said, per ESPN.
In the 1994-94 NBA season, the year when the Chicago Bulls were without Jordan, Pippen's average jumped to a career-high 22.0 points per game, which led the team. In addition, Pip dished out 5.6 assists and 2.9 steals which also led the Bulls. Pippen's 8.7 rebounds per game was just second to Horace Grant's 11.0. He also ranked second in blocks with 0.8, second to Grant's 1.2.
The stats show that Rodman might have been exaggerating. Nonetheless, Pippen was the leader of the 1993-94 Bulls team, which squeezed out an impressive 55-27 record and finished third in the East. Pippen was also named MVP at the All-Star Game that season.
"Scottie got his wings in 1991 when they beat the Detroit Pistons," Rodman added. "He got his wings then, and he started on that trend from winning three championships. When Michael left, Scottie took over – and next thing you know, he was the best player in the world. And people don't know that!"
Rodman made a lot of great points. When most basketball fans hear the name Scottie Pippen, the name Michael Jordan follows. Meanwhile, when they hear the name Michael Jordan, Pippen's name isn't immediately brought up. He's either an afterthought, or he's not even in the discussion.
That's why it's no wonder Pippen was happy when Jordan retired for the first time, given that he finally got the chance to come out of MJ's shadow.
"I was the happiest man alive," Pippen said. "I got a chance to be the man for a change. It's something that you embrace as a player, especially when you're in a position where you're probably not going to get that spotlight, like myself playing with Michael. So when he retired, I was very happy, but I did want him to come back."
Some fans were confused by Pippen's statement. Others understood his antics because he'd been in Jordan's shadow for so long. Whatever the case may be, it's quite unfortunate that one of the best partnerships ever became one of the biggest feuds in the basketball world today.