Scottie Pippen isn’t done talking about Michael Jordan and “The Last Dance” just yet.
In his upcoming memoir “Unguarded,” which is set to be released on Nov. 9, Pippen expresses his frustrations with how Jordan portrayed him and his Bulls teammates as part of the ESPN documentary series that detailed the end of Chicago’s dynasty. Pippen previously shared his feelings about “The Last Dance” in multiple interviews, but he goes into more depth in his new book.
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“I was nothing more than a prop. His ‘best teammate of all time,’ he called me,” Pippen said of Jordan in an excerpt from “Unguarded” published by GQ on Tuesday. “He couldn’t have been more condescending if he tried. On second thought, I could believe my eyes. I spent a lot of time around the man. I knew what made him tick. How naive I was to expect anything else.
“Each episode was the same: Michael on a pedestal, his teammates secondary, smaller, the message no different from when he referred to us back then as his ‘supporting cast.’ From one season to the next, we received little or no credit whenever we won but the bulk of the criticism when we lost. Michael could shoot 6 for 24 from the field, commit five turnovers, and he was still, in the minds of the adoring press and public, the Errorless Jordan.”
While “The Last Dance” was incredibly popular and generated huge ratings for ESPN last year, it also faced criticism because of Jordan’s relationship to the project. The series couldn’t move forward unless Jordan gave director Jason Hehir permission to use the footage shot from the 1997-98 season, and Jordan’s production company, Jump 23, was involved in the project. (NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who was the head of NBA Entertainment at the time, convinced Jordan to allow a film crew to follow that Bulls team.)
Pippen believes that Jordan, whom he called “the leading man and the director,” wanted to prove that he was still a larger figure in the sport than LeBron James rather than highlight the excellence of those Chicago teams. He claims that several of his Bulls teammates felt “as disrespected as I did” about their treatment in “The Last Dance.”
“I’m not suggesting Michael wouldn’t have been a superstar wherever he ended up. He was that spectacular,” Pippen said. “Just that he relied on the success we attained as a team — six titles in eight years — to propel him to a level of fame throughout the world no other athlete, except for Muhammad Ali, has reached in modern times.
“To make things worse, Michael received $10 million for his role in the doc while my teammates and I didn’t earn a dime, another reminder of the pecking order from the old days. For an entire season, we allowed cameras into the sanctity of our locker rooms, our practices, our hotels, our huddles … our lives.”
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(Forbes reported last year that Jordan planned to donate all of the money he made from “The Last Dance” to charitable causes. At the time, it was estimated that he would earn $3-4 million.)
Pippen noted that Jordan reached out to him after the final episodes of the series aired, but he felt Jordan was only “checking in to make sure I wouldn’t cause any trouble.”
You can read the full excerpt from “Unguarded” here.