Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman led interesting career paths, with horse racing bookmakers. No, perhaps "eerie" is the more applicable term. The Pistons/Bulls series from yesteryear provided the era of Michael Jordan's career that was as violent as it was baffling. And while Jordan most normally always filled the stat sheet even in losing efforts, Scottie was the one experiencing two of his most forgettable performances in elimination games in the 1989 and 1990 Eastern Conference Finals thanks in part to Detroit's WWF approach and one ill-timed migraine.
By the time Chicago finally got over the hump in 1991, Pippen and pre-Worm Rodman were still clashing heads. Fast-forward four years later and they're teammates on what eventually becomes Chicago's second three-peat of the decade. For all the classic games and iconic moments the 1995-98 Bulls had, Scottie and Dennis — who at this point was at the peak of his pop culture relevance — never truly extended the olive branch to one another.
In 2011, Rodman told Graham Bensinger, business was business. There wasn't a need to be friends as long as chemistry on the court never suffered.
Me and Scottie — we’re cool today. We’re a little older, a little wiser. We’re cool today. And me and Scottie never had a conversation. Me and Scottie and Michael never had a conversation in three years in Chicago. Only time we had a conversation was on the court, and that was it.
Thus bringing us to the third and final chapter in the story of two of the greatest defensive players in basketball history. A few days ago, I came across a random clip on YouTube. What began as a voyage through old Cash Money Records clips somehow landed on footage of a random Houston Rockets-Los Angeles Lakers game at the Great Western Forum from February 28, 1999.
The season was still less than 20 games old stemming from the lockout, which had threatened to kill the entire season only weeks earlier. The Houston Rockets era of Scottie Pippen's life normally isn't mentioned in the discussion of his career because it was only for a season, a shortened season at that. Also because of how close he and the Portland Trail Blazers came to beating this same Lakers team (give and take some parts) only a year later in one of the more memorable and infamous Western Conference finals in NBA history.
Of the clip, however, a few thoughts stand out.
The narrator. What channel was this? Did he do anymore games? This was weird, but in a different way it was cool to hear a blend of Idris Elba and Crocodile Dundee talk basketball.
This was Rodman's second game in Hollywood. Similar to how Pippen's stint as a Rocket is often overlooked, so is Rodman's as a Laker. He only played in 23 games (more on that shortly) and averaged 11 rebounds a game while the Lakers went 17-6 with him in uniform (including winning the first 11 straight).
Looking back, this was a combustible situation waiting to happen and probably one of the few misjudgments in the life and career of the late, great Jerry Buss. Kurt Rambis and Rodman never got along. Shaq and Kobe were Shaq and Kobe, basketball's version of Martin and Pam (both hated each other, yet worked so well during their prime). And Rodman and Shaq had their moments in the past, most vocally following Chicago's four-game sweep and execution ceremony of what was supposed to be the Orlando Magic dynasty in the '96 East Finals. The lesson in all this? No one manufactures drama like the Los Angeles Lakers.
Charles Barkley was still a force. Obviously not the "force" of his younger years, but Chuck turned 35 years old eight days prior to this game. In what proved to be his last full season, The Round Mound of Rebound shot 47.8% from the field, amassing 16.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. To provide some sense of context, no one in the NBA averaged 20 and 10 last year. And Chuck was 6'4".
Yes, Michael Jordan was in attendance. And of course he sat beside Jack Nicholson. Even in 2013, watching the video and seeing he, Pippen and Rodman under the same roof not in Bulls jerseys is still weird. Another thing worth mentioning is Mike appears somewhat decently dressed. I think. Or maybe it's the fact it doesn't look like something directly out of the Steve Harvey Collection that I'm inclined to at least breathe a sigh of relief. The 2000s were and still are a rough time period for MJ's fashion sense, and this could be the last record evidence of the contrary.
Yes, Kobe attempts to put on a show in front of MJ. Because why wouldn't he? Much like LeBron, Jordan was Bryant's idol. He's never denied such. Doug Collins acknowledges it, and Kobe's mannerisms have Jordan written all over them. Shooting 8-20, Mini 'Fro Bean — referred to here as "The Prince of the NBA" — obviously saw more prolific days as a pro, but his crossover of Pippen and emphatic dunk seemed to win the approval of Jordan and there's a strong possibility that's all that mattered to Kobe at the end of the day (besides winning). The obsession was real.
Ironically enough, UNC alumnus Rick Fox was the true hero of the game going 7-7 from the field (5-5 from three) for 21 points. But doubling back to Dennis Rodman for a moment, it's his tenure in Hollywood that remains so perplexing nearly 15 years later. When he actually played, Rodman was more than effective. When he didn't, well, it's easy to understand why his career as a Laker lasted seven weeks.
Dennis and Kurt Rambis never saw eye to eye during their brief union, unique in its own right because if he could've stayed with the team through the the '98-'99 season, Phil Jackson arrives in '99-'00. And if there are two people Dennis ever listened to on a basketball court, they are Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson.
Nevertheless, that didn't happen, and Rodman's commitment to late arrivals at practice overshadowed his double-digit rebounding numbers. He even went AWOL from the team for eight days to deal with "personal issues," which may or may not have had anything to do with a crumbling marriage to Carmen Electra (and to party in Las Vegas).
Rodman's erratic decisions eventually led to his release from the team in April of 1999. Of the decision, Dennis lashed back saying the Lakers were "cowards not to take the fall for some of the things that have happened this year." His "march to the beat of my own drum" mentality made him then to basketball what Lady Gaga or Rihanna is to music today. Some understood him, many respected his talent, but very few were able to harness the energy that was Dennis Keith Rodman in its most effective manner. It's a diagnosis that still rings true today.
As recent as last year, Scottie and Dennis' interactions remain cordial yet distanced at best. Regarding his relationship with Rodman, Pip gave off the indication there truly isn't one. He was more of a former colleague watching someone he once broke bread with struggle publicly and privately from a distance. And there was very little, if any, remorse felt.
"Dennis made his bed up, and it's hard, and that's the way you have to sleep. You know, that's kind of the way Phil Jackson used to tell us," Pippen told an ESPN Radio affiliate in April 2012. "If you don't prepare, some of the worst things can happen to you. Dennis has been one of those guys who sort of lived that lifestyle. All the hanging out, being up and down and partying, you know it's starting to catch up on him in some degree. In a lot of ways.
"You know, not just from his partying, but some of his personal things in his life are starting to bother him. You feel bad for him, but what do you say to a guy like that who's been blessed and gifted with such an opportunity in life and ... you blow it?"
Maybe in three years when the Bulls inevitably celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the 72-10 team, we'll get some sort of 30 For 30-type treatment as to why things were the way they were and still are the way they are. Then again, maybe it's better being left the way it's currently constructed. The game of basketball — much like the game of life — and the personalities in it aren't always meant to be "figured out."
@JustinTinsley is stuck halfway between a dream and reality. The plan? To make that dream a reality.