A Chicago Bulls legend who battled through health issues to help win an NBA Finals game criticized his former teammate on Monday, but the players’ roles in that scenario aren’t the first to come to mind. Scottie Pippen downplayed Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” during the 1997 NBA Finals, adding his own ability to play through a back injury in Game 6 of the following year’s Finals was more impressive.
Pippen, a Hall of Famer and member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team, made the comparison while promoting his new memoir “Unguarded” in a SiriusXM Town Hall. The six-time NBA champion told Frank Isola his back injury was severe enough to hold him out of a potential Game 7 against the Utah Jazz in ’98. The Bulls’ Game 6 victory, though, clinched the series.
“I was done, pretty much,” Pippen said. “I mean — I struggled to pull it through in that game and I suffered from it, still suffering from it but I wouldn’t have played in a Game 7, I just wasn’t able to go. I knew on Saturday that I probably had one game left in me, and the start of that game I got a dunk early in the game and got banged a little by [Karl] Malone. That really put me back on my heels throughout that whole game, where I was running back to the locker room, [to get] cortisone, whatever kind of medication I could get in me, heat pack, whatever to try to carry on. I definitely was not able to play a Game 7.”
Isola asked Pippen whether his Game 6 return wasn’t talked about enough, and Pippen responded “Well, I don’t see many bad back games, but I do see flu games.” Pippen then added a flippant “come on” to throw extra fuel into the fiery rivalry he’s built with Jordan, who played Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals with a stomach virus or food poisoning.
Pippen has taken several public shots toward Jordan since the release of “The Last Dance,” a 10-part docuseries on the Bulls’ final title run. In “Unguarded,” Pippen claimed Jordan “demeaned” and “disrespected” his former teammates to protect his “precious brand.” Pippen also wrote Jordan’s sudden decision to retire in 1993 was “selfish” and prevented the Bulls from acquiring quality free agents.
“I think he’s always separated himself a little bit from what I consider the traditional team concept, in some sense,” Pippen told the New York Times. “And I think ‘The Last Dance’ just put the icing on the cake. So it was all about him at the end of the day.”
“Unguarded” was released worldwide on Tuesday.