The much-anticipated, 10-part ESPN docuseries The Last Dance has garnered tons of positive press for its never-before-seen coverage of Michael Jordan’s final championship with the Chicago Bulls. Critics of the docuseries have noted, however, that the story is inherently biased, since the person doing the storytelling (Jordan) was also involved in the process of making it. One of the aspects that has garnered the most division among fans is the portrayal of Jordan’s teammate Scottie Pippen. Pippen, who spoke candidly about his life and career, was widely considered Jordan’s right-hand man when the two played for the Chicago Bulls. But the series takes aim at some of the disagreements between the two players—and Pippen is reportedly upset with his portrayer.
‘The Last Dance’ portrays Pippen as underpaid and frustrated.
In the series, Jordan says that Pippen’s the best teammate he ever had and that he wouldn’t have had as much success without Pippen. Yet, the series does delve into how frustrated Pippen felt about making far less than his teammates. Rumors were rampant that he might be traded to another team—and Pippen chose not to have surgery on his ruptured ankle tendon until the start of the 1997-8 season (which the documentary covers). Jordan called the move «selfish» because it left the rest of his teammates to play several months without him.
In a later episode, an incident in which Pippen sat out the final seconds of a 1994 semifinals game because Jordan picked another player for the final play is pretty harshly criticized—and Pippen apparently still has angry feelings about what happened as well. He maintains that the situation was complex and that his feelings were and are valid. «It’s one of those incidents where I wish it never happened,» he says, «but if I had a chance to do it over again I probably wouldn’t change it.»
Despite the scrutiny and disagreements, the two former players were close at the time and were at least still close in February, when Pippen wished Jordan a happy birthday:
Pippin isn’t happy about how ‘The Last Dance’ turned out.
Pippen gave interviews for the series and did have the opportunity to talk about his feelings of frustration about being underpaid and undervalued. In the wake of The Last Dance, though, he’s been quiet about it. People close to him say he’s «wounded and disappointed.» And even Dennis Rodman, who’s also a fellow ex-teammate, came to his defense.
«I wish he didn’t give a shit like me about what people say,» he says (referencing how Pippen takes criticism to heart). He insists that Pippen’s one of the best players of all time, «but no one could ever quite see him. He was too quiet, and he was always standing next to Michael Jordan.»
«Scottie was so underrated—and so underpaid. He should be holding his head up higher than Michael Jordan in this documentary,» he added. «I think a lot of people are now realizing what he went through. The kid was a hero, in a lot of ways, during those great Bulls runs.»
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