In Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals, Scottie Pippen did the unthinkable: he pulled himself out of the game in crunch time.
With the score tied at 102, Phil Jackson drew up the final play for Toni Kukoc – not Pippen – to take the final shot. Pippen wasn’t happy. He was so unhappy, in fact, that he refused to play out the final sequence.
“Every team has a guy, and the Chicago Bulls – after Michael was off playing baseball for a couple of years – Scottie Pippen was that guy,” Tiki Barber said on Tiki & Tierney. “He should have been taking that shot. The question is was he justified in being upset? As a team player, no. But as the guy, I think he probably did have some justification.”
Brandon Tierney understands Pippen being angry. But to sit out the final play of such a pivotal game? Really?
“Does he have the right to be upset? Maybe he does,” Tierney said. “I’m going to grant him that emotional latitude as the guy, even though he wasn’t a pure scorer and he was not a pure shooter. So you have to factor that in. When there’s two seconds, there’s the trigger, there’s the catch, there’s the shot – boom. There’s no pump-fakes. There’s no, ‘Let me get a little separation’ – and Toni Kukoc was good at [catching and shooting].”
Kukoc, it is worth noting, proved Jackson right. He hit the game-winning shot, and the Bulls won the game 104-102.
Pippen, meanwhile, looked petty.
“Did he have the right to be upset? Yeah,” Tierney said. “Did he have the right to quit on the guys that he went to war with every day? No, and that’s the point. . . . To me, it doesn’t matter who the coach is. You still get your behind off the bench, and you try to win the game because you’re with your teammates. I don’t care how mad he is.”
“Yeah, you should be there,” he said. “Even if it’s not you, you should still be out there.”