Chicago Bulls Ring of Honor celebration a missed opportunity for Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to settle yearslong feud

It’s impossible to celebrate the greatest team in the history of the Chicago Bulls — and perhaps all time — without Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

But the Bulls attempted to do just that this week, celebrating the 1995-96 team as the first to be inducted into the Ring of Honor without the three players who formed the center of gravity for that roster.

There would be no 1996 championship without Jordan’s improbable return in 1995. It’s impossible to talk about the 1996 Finals without recalling Rodman’s smirking, terrorizing performances against the Seattle SuperSonics. And the Bulls’ success never would exist without the balancing presence of Pippen.

Their absence was a weight over two the festivities Thursday and Friday at the United Center. Jordan prerecorded a video message, which was shown Thursday during the gala.

“I am so bummed that I can’t be there tonight but I don’t want that to stop the fun that you guys are going to have,” Jordan said. “I think we made an impression and changed what Chicago represents in terms of champions. Every time you look up in the rafters, I want you always to remember where we were and where we are. And we are always going to be champions. I will always be a Chicago Bull and I want them to continually do well. I’d like to see other banners in the rafters and I hope the city can always be proud of the Chicago Bulls.”

There was still plenty to celebrate. Luc Longley returned to Chicago for the first time in a decade. Toni Kukoc praised the 1995-96 team as “one of the best, if not the best teams ever.” Steve Kerr expressed appreciation that the event was planned around a Golden State Warriors game, allowing him to attend alongside his former teammates.

But the night symbolized a missed opportunity for something fans crave: closure.

This week offered the first public chance for Pippen and Jordan to reunite since their relationship began to publicly crumble in the wake of “The Last Dance” documentary release in 2020. The documentary laid bare the strife — some previously public, some not — that defined those championship years.

It always has been clear that the Bulls won those six championships because of and in spite of the clashing egos and warring temperaments of coaches and players. But those memories recently have soured the relationship between Pippen and Jordan specifically.

For years now, Pippen has decried what he feels is an “inaccurate” portrayal of himself and the Bulls in the documentary. He distanced himself from Jordan in his memoir, which was released in 2021. After years of escalating comments, Pippen called Jordan a “horrible basketball player” in an interview in May.

“Everybody forgot who he was,” Pippen said. “He was a player who was really not at the top of his category. It was scoring.”

After three years of these comments, neither side has settled the dispute. This week might have offered that opportunity. But for now, Bulls fans will be left with the nostalgia of the celebration — and hope for closure in the future.

A timeline of Jordan and Pippen’s relationship

  • 1987: Pippen joins the Bulls

  • 1991: First championship together

  • 1998: Last championship together

  • 2009: Jordan thanks Pippen at Hall of Fame induction

  • 2010: Jordan inducts Pippen into Hall of Fame

  • April 2020: “The Last Dance” released

  • November 2021: Pippen releases memoir in which he details that his friendship with Jordan “is not where people see it on TV think it is”

  • September 2022: Marcus Jordan begins dating Pippen’s ex-wife, Larsa Pippen

  • May 2023: Pippen says he has no plans of making amends after calling Michael Jordan a “horrible” basketball player

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