Jason Hehir: Scottie Pippen’s toughness will star in ‘Last Dance’ finale

Rob Schaefer
NBC Sports Chicago

If it was evident coming in, it is now: "The Last Dance" is the Michael Jordan show.

And that's perfectly fine. From an entertainment perspective, ESPN decided granting Jordan editorial autonomy over the docuseries in exchange for his time, candor and connections was a worthy trade-off. The result has been enthralling, but at the cost of giving other principles of the Bulls' dynasty their due shine.

A prime example of that dynamic through episodes is Scottie Pippen, whose story probably hasn't been elucidated in as comprehensive a manner as a player of his caliber deserves, to the point that sources close to Pippen recently told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan that he feels "wounded and disappointed" by his portrayal. Given that Pippen's most prominent storylines in the documentary - his contract dispute with Jerry Krause, delaying foot surgery to intentionally miss half the 1997-98 season out of spite, the 1.8 seconds game, the migraine game and so on - have all been negative, that's no surprise.

But apparently his narrative arc is hurtling towards a gratifying conclusion.

Here's what "The Last Dance" director Jason Hehir told Dan Bernstein and Will Perdue on 670 The Score's "Bernstein & Perdue" show when asked about Pippen's portrayal in the documentary:

"I will say that Scottie's toughness, you're going to learn a lot about that in Episode 10. I'm proud of the job that we did, and immensely thankful to the NBA for the way that they covered Game 6, cameras everywhere. Scottie was in and out of the trainer's room for that entire game, and he was a decoy the entire game in Game 6 against Utah. He could barely move. Anyone that's pulled their back out even playing pickup ball knows that it's debilitating and it knocks you off your feet for days at a time. And Scottie was playing with a pulled, wrenched back that entire game. 

"He was in spasms for the entire game and he grit his teeth and he played through it because that's how valuable he was as a player, that even as a decoy, he attracted enough attention on the court that it gave Michael the space to operate."

Indeed, Pippen's contributions in the decisive game of the 1998 Finals, though not eye-popping on the stat sheet, were all the more impressive because of the immense pain he played through.

As the last dance Bulls' ultimate triumph is depicted, hopefully Pippen's character will enjoy the full-circle, redemptive treatment he deserves. After all, Scottie and Michael (and the Bulls franchise, as a whole) never won without each other.

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Jason Hehir: Scottie Pippens toughness will star in Last Dance finale originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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