Scottie Pippen ‘Wouldn’t Change’ Refusing To Leave The Bench In The 1994 Playoffs

While the focus of Episode 7 of The Last Dance is on Michael Jordan, his first retirement, his stint in baseball, and eventual return to the Bulls, it does dive into the 1993-94 Bulls and how they excelled without Jordan, led by tremendous play from Scottie Pippen.

That season was an opportunity for Pippen to prove himself as the leader of a team and for Phil Jackson to prove his Triangle offense could be effective even without a scorer on the same level as Michael Jordan. They both succeeded in proving themselves that season, even if they fell short of the NBA Finals, but the way that season ended in the conference semis against the New York Knicks remains a sour note, particularly in how Pippen handled one specific moment.

At the end of Game 3, with the Bulls down one, Phil Jackson drew up a play for Toni Kukoc, a sequence he said they ran a few times that season with success in similar situations. Pippen, frustrated that his number didn’t get called for the potential game-winner, refused to get off the bench and be the inbounder for the play. Kukoc ended up hitting an incredible shot to give the Bulls a much needed win and pull back to down just 2-1 in the series, but after the game, they all remembered the focus being on Pippen’s actions and not on the Kukoc game-winner.

Kukoc, Jackson, Steve Kerr, Bill Cartwright, Bill Wennington, and Horace Grant all looked back on a strange locker room scene in the documentary, recalling Cartwright giving a speech and having tears streaming down his face as he told Pippen he let them down. They also remembered Pippen being emotional and apologizing to the team as well, and even though Jordan wasn’t on the team, he called the next day to talk to Phil Jackson about it and still is disappointed in how Pippen handled that situation.

“It’s always going to come back and haunt him at some point in some conversation. Pip knows better than that,” Jordan said.

Pippen is likewise disappointed in that moment, but not so much that he thinks he’d change it if put in that situation once again.

“It’s one of those incidents where I wish it never happened, but if I had a chance to do it over again I probably wouldn’t change it,” Pippen said.

It’s a strange quote, as you would think you if you really wished it didn’t happen you would want to change the outcome if given the opportunity, but Pippen still seems to feel he’s not given proper respect for what he did on those Bulls teams (and, really, rightfully so). As such, he still probably thinks that even though Kukoc made the shot, it should’ve been his opportunity to take that shot, and even if it hurt his reputation, he wouldn’t respond much differently even with hindsight on his side.