With the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame recently inducting former Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen into their hallowed halls of greatness, what better time to give one of the NBA’s Top 50 Players of All Time his very own multi-part, weekly Player Rewind Series. Scottie was the antithesis of the 5 tool player with supreme abilities to handle the rock, score when needed, or play lock-down defense on virtually any player on the floor. Although he will forever be labeled a “sidekick” to the great Michael Jordan in their magnificent run in winning 6 NBA Titles, Scottie was undoubtedly a great man on and off the court from his humble beginnings in Hamburg, Arkansas, to winning an Olympic Gold Medal, and eventually as a standard of greatness that many players of today’s game continue to strive for. Hopefully this series will serve to educate the youngsters about one of the greatest defensive players ever, while at the same time helping to reminisce on just how spectacular a player the man know as “Pip” really was.
Part One – High School and College Years
Before receiving all of the accolades of winning 6 World Titles, 7 All Star Game Appearances, and 10 NBA All Defensive Team Selections, Scottie was a skinny, uncoordinated young man growing up in Hamburg, Arkansas. He was one of twelve siblings to mother and father Preston and Ethel Pippen, all of which were dogged by poverty after his father suffered a debilitating stroke during Scottie’s freshman year in high school. Partly because of underwhelming size, Scottie played basketball on a recreational level until his sophomore year when he finally made the school team and doubled as the football team manager. He was unable to attract any attention from local colleges, mostly because of his diminutive 6’1 and 150 lb frame as a HS senior. This is where Scottie’s career as one of the future greats of the NBA almost ended before it even began.
It wasn’t until his HS coach called in a favor to a friend at the tiny University of Central Arkansas, where Scottie could hopefully continue to play, while earning a stipend as team manager, in addition to working at a factory job to continue to earn money to college. After showing his skills in practice as a freshman, along with growing a few more inches, Scottie was fortunately awarded a scholarship for his sophomore season and evolved into one of Central Arkansas’ best players, even averaging 23.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists as a senior. Partly because the school was still classified as a NAIA program, Scottie’s stock as a player still wasn’t on the national level until he showcased his amazing all around skills at the Portsmouth College All Star Event in the Spring of ’87, where Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause took notice and thought Pippen could be an excellent complimentary piece to play alongside a certain rising young player he already had on his NBA roster named Michael Jordan.
Afraid that another franchise would grab the still under the radar star in the making, Krause made a trade that unknown to him, changed the landscape of the NBA for the next 2 decades as he acquired Pippen, who was originally the #5 overall selection of the Seattle Supersonics in the ’87 NBA Draft.
Check out some vintage footage of Pippen being selected by Seattle in the 1987 Draft:
Back in January of 2010 the University of Central Arkansas retired his #33 Jersey:
Check out some great footage from early on in Scottie’s HS and NCAA career:
Allen Moll has been a lifelong NBA and NCAA College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously, and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen also provides content to Bleacherreport.com, Upperdeckblog.com, in addition to being a tenured NBA and NCAA columnist for TheHoopDoctors.com.