Every NBA player wants a room to themselves. Sometimes it allows for a better representation of who you are in contrast to sharing a crowded space with a name too big for most marquees.
Scottie Pippen knew he was one of the best players in the NBA for years preceding Michael Jordan’s surprising 1993 retirement, but far too many considered Pippen a sub-also-ran, chugging well behind the also-rans that ranked just a step below MJ: Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Michael Adams, the whole lot.
Jordan’s move to minor league baseball allowed Pippen the space to create, and for his too-late placement amongst the handful of NBA MVP candidates. Placed within a conversation about Russell Westbrook’s run on the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder, Pippen discussed the glee to which he took in the 1993-94 season recently on ESPN’s “The Jump” (via For the Win):
“I was the happiest man alive,” Pippen said. “I got a chance to be the man for a change. It’s something you embrace as a player, especially when you’re in a position where you’re probably not going to get that spotlight like myself playing with Michael. So when he retired, I was very happy. I did want him to come back, though.”
Remember that Pippen wasn’t exactly pining for Jordan’s removal during the three championship runs the two shared between 1991 and 1993, prior to Michael’s first retirement. Also recall that Jordan dropped his bombshell in early October, just as the NBA’s training camp was to commence.
Just days before the season’s tip, Pippen likely had no choice but to make the best of a sordid, 30-points per game-less situation. And while the fun was there on his own, Pippen didn’t have to think too far back to remember life without the added heft of replacing a basketball legend. The versatile small forward had his gifts in all areas, but nothing could replace Jordan’s league-leading scoring beside superior all-around play.
Only replacing Jordan with shooting guard Pete Myers – a cut for 12th man just previously, weirdly reborn as a starter in Chicago – alongside the addition of Toni Kukoc, the Bulls won 55 games in 1993-94, a year after winning 57 games with Michael Jordan. Pippen didn’t emulate Jordan’s league-leading mark in the points per game docket, as he rounded out at 22 points per game (a career high). Pippen added 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.9 steals a contest. It was an MVP-level season.
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SOURCE: Yahoo! Sports