25 Years Ago, Robin Became Batman – Scottie Pippen Superstar

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25 Years Ago, Robin Became Batman – Scottie Pippen Superstar

 

25 years ago, Michael Jordan retired for the first time. It was Scottie Pippen’s time to shine during the 1993-94 season, the first season as ‘the man’ in Chicago.

And Robin did become Batman. As everyone knew, while on the team, Michael Jordan was the leader—he took all the big shots, dominated the court and media, and was at the forefront of all six championships—and Pippen accepted it.

In his first six seasons, Scottie Pippen averaged 16.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.1 blocks while shooting 49% from the field alongside Michael Jordan. Pippen was a three-time champion, two-time all-star, one-time All-NBA Second Team, and one-time All-NBA Defensive Team by the time of Jordan’s absence. Pippen states,

 

“[Michael Jordan’s retirement] was pretty shocking, and very emotional.”

 

Pippen had no doubt in leading a team without Jordan—he took it as a challenge. A few players who won three-straight titles remained in Chicago including B.J. Armstrong, Bill Cartwright and Horace Grant, while sharpshooter Steve Kerr and big men Bill Wennington and Luc Longley were added to the shaken roster. The three additions of Kerr, Wennington, and Longley were important, but European sensation Toni Kukoc brought an overseas swagger to the Chicago and was extremely valuable. Kukoc, one of the greatest European players of his time, was Scottie Pippen’s new running mate. The Chicago Bulls were off to a shaky start, going 5-7 in their first twelve games, but exploded to win their next 30 games over a 35 game span. Pippen let the league know he was something special not just by putting up consistent showings during the first half of the season, but also by winning the 1994 All-Star Game MVP award. Pippen stole the show, finishing with 29 points, eleven rebounds and four steals against top-of-the-line competition.

Heading into the 1994 NBA playoffs with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and third-best record in the entire league, Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls were on their way to the postseason for the first time without Michael Jordan and looked to make a statement. The Bulls finished the season with a 55-27 record, and completed their fifth straight 50-plus win season.

Pippen was up against Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon and San Antonio Spurs big-man David Robinson in the MVP voting, but eventually fell short to Olajuwon for the award. Pippen ranked eighth in scoring (22.0), 23rd in rebounding (8.7), 19th in assists (5.6) second in steals (2.9), and averaged 0.8 blocks per game while shooting an impressive 49% from the field. Pippen carried the team on his back during Jordan’s absence and gained newfound respect in the NBA world that he could win and be a superstar on his own.

The Chicago Bulls were off to a hot start in the 1994 NBA Playoffs, taking out Mark Price and the Cleveland Cavaliers 3-0 in the opening round. Then, for the fourth straight year, the New York Knicks re-lived their long rivalry with the Bulls, just this time, No. 23 was not there to facilitate. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Patrick Ewing and the Knicks took a commanding 2-0 series lead. Chicago struck back, taking the next two contests at home evening the series at two games apiece. Chicago would eventually fall to New York in six games. The Knicks later defeated Reggie Miller and the fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals before ultimately falling to the Houston Rockets in seven games in the Finals. Chicago Bulls center Bill Wennington praised Scottie Pippen at the end of the 1994 postseason, admitting,

 

“Scottie [Pippen] was the heart and soul of that team. He put that team on his shoulders and was taking all the big shots.” B.J. Armstrong agreed, saying, “[Pippen] was just incredible. He was running around and doing things, really getting a chance to explore every aspect of his game. I think it really answered a lot of questions in the back of his mind.”

 

Pippen, really did it all.

What if Scottie Pippen was the top dog on all teams he’s been apart of during his career? What if he had a dominant big man playing alongside him? What if there was no Michael Jordan from the start? A series of questions came about after Pippen’s extraordinary 1993-94 season. He erased all doubts about whether he was just a sidekick who played so well because of Michael Jordan. Clutch gene or not, Scottie Pippen was now seen as a top-tier star across the league.

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