When NBA players tell reporters that they’re “not really thinking about” a certain future opponent or not dwelling too hard on what just happened on the court some 20 minutes ago, by and large they’re genuinely telling the truth. The cliches may come off as pablum, but in order to outfit yourself for an 82-game season, you truly do have to take things one game at a time. And in order to prepare yourself for a possible championship run, as we saw with the 2013 and then 2014 San Antonio Spurs, you have to be able to let your disappointments go. “Let them wash off and go down the shower drain,” Phil Jackson once said in the locker room, rather creepily.
One of Jackson’s disciples, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, certainly took that to heart in a new ad for an apparel outfit, in conferring with fellow Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, and Houston Rocket All-Star James Harden. Watch:
How devoted are Barkley and Pippen to the idea of letting things go, to the tune of a sponsorship contract? Perhaps you’ll recall this gem, from just prior to the 1999-00 season:
After the NBA’s 1998-99 lockout, Barkley took a pay cut in order for the Rockets to have enough space to encourage a sign-and-trade deal Scottie Pippen, outfitting Pip with a five-year, $67.2 million contract. Barkley worked for “just” $1 million that season, a fitful year that saw a disappointing Rockets team fail to coalesce even with three future Hall of Famers (including Hakeem Olajuwon) in the frontcourt. The spacing on the team was terrible, and though Rudy Tomjanovich’s offense was not the best match for Pippen’s talents, there was no way the franchise was firing a Rocket coaching legend, so Pippen requested and eventually received a trade to Portland.
(And in looking up Barkley’s career earnings, it’s shocking to note that he made about two-thirds – some $40 million – of what Gordon Hayward will receive on his new four-year contract.)
In a lot of ways, Barkley (who took in a $9 million contract the year after, in his final injury-plagued season with the NBA) was right to call out Pippen for jumping ship so soon after Barkley’s pay cut, but Pippen was also right to realize that he was never going to fit within the confines of Houston’s lead-footed system and right in attempting to join a Portland team with more movement and passing. Pippen probably wasn’t right to call Barkley a schoolyard name and then narc out Michael Jordan, a longtime friend of Barkley, in saying that MJ told Pippen that Charles never had the off-court commitment needed to become a champion.
Both are probably right to take in some endorsement coin in their advanced age, and let bygones be bygones for the sake of a televised joke.
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