We all know what Michael Jordan was able to accomplish on the court. In 25 total seasons, he was a 14x All-Star, 11x All-NBA Player, 10x Scoring Champ, 5x MVP, and a 6x Champion.
Still, all the heroics did not come without help. To be frank, Jordan was very fortunate to have the team that he had. Most notably, it was his teammate Scottie Pippen and head coach Phil Jackson that get a lot of the credit in helping elevate MJ’s game.
But which one contributed to Jordan’s success more? It’s a subject that has been argued for years but according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, it’s easily Pippen.
“If you’re asking about Kobe and Shaq, then it’s Phil Jackson… it was clearly a coaching situation that existed in L.A. where they desperately needed leadership.
In the case of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, Doug Collins was doing a hell of a job coaching the Chicago Bulls. He had taken them to the conference Finals… so the first year there he did the same thing Doug Collins had done as the coach in the previous year.
To me it was the elevation of Scottie Pippen. It was the fact that Scottie Pippen, I don’t want to say scared or whatever, but the bravado, the swag, the toughness — because a lot of time the bad boy Pistons softened Scottie a little bit.
With Jordan, he ultimately elevated his level of toughness, he was a phenomenal defender, and Scottie Pippen’s elevation is what elevated the Chicago Bulls to the Champions that they were.”
People like to forget that Pippen himself was a borderline superstar. Back in the day, he was one of the best two-way forwards in the league, averaging 17 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.1 steals per game in his 12-year tenure with the Bulls. He’s also a 6x Champion, 7x All-Star, and 10x All-Defensive player.
The case for Phil Jackson’s importance stems from his other-worldly basketball genius. His offensive schemes coupled with his ability to control and manage stars made him an ideal coach for the Bulls. Following his end in Chicago, Jackson went on to coach the Kobe and Shaq led Laker teams.
In the end, it’s obvious that both were important to MJ’s success. Not a single superstar in league history has done it by himself — not Magic, or Kareem, or LeBron and Pippen’s impact as a sidekick allowed Jordan to be the best of who he was.
We might take it for granted now, but Scottie was crucial to what they were doing back then. That much is clear.