Two nights into ESPN’s airing of “The Last Dance,” and we’re already seeing disagreements between its subjects.
In this case, it’s Steve Kerr disagreeing with Michael Jordan about Scottie Pippen’s decision to delay his foot surgery well into the offseason amid a stand-off over Pippen’s infamously team-friendly contract. As Pippen said it, he was “not going to f--- my summer up.”
The decision caused Pippen to miss the beginning of the 1997-98 season, just one of a number of dysfunctions the Bulls were experiencing that year. Pippen eventually made his season debut in January, playing 44 games in the regular season and winning a sixth ring in the playoffs.
Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr on Pippen’s surgery
As you could imagine, Jordan had thoughts on Pippen willfully missing part of the season. From ESPN:
"Scottie was wrong in that scenario," Jordan said in the episode, which debuted Sunday night on ESPN. "He could've got his surgery done as soon as the season was over and be ready for the season. What Scottie was trying to do was trying to force management to change his contract. And [owner Jerry Reinsdorf] was never going to do that."
Jordan also spent part of the documentary calling Pippen his “best teammate of all time,” but that’s still a pretty strong stance to take against the player universally credited as your No. 2.
According to Kerr, however, the rest of the Bulls weren’t resentful against Pippen at the time, siding with him over Bulls management and owner Jerry Reinsdorf. From ESPN:
Asked whether there was resentment from other Bulls players over Pippen's decision, Kerr said, "No, not at all."
"Everyone respected Scottie so much," Kerr said. "We felt his frustration. He probably should have been the second-highest-paid guy in the NBA or definitely top-five. So we all felt for him, nobody resented him for having that surgery. Later, we all understood, let's give him his space, and he's going to be there for the second stretch of the season for us."
This isn’t the first time Kerr and Jordan have had a disagreement, and this one thankfully came without punches being thrown.
Obviously, things ended up working out for the Bulls that year (though not much longer).
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