“Because of what happened to my brother and father, I learned early on how everything in your life can be taken away without the slightest warning,” Pippen said. “I couldn’t afford the risk I would get injured and end up with nothing.”
Sadly, too many of Pippen’s other opportunities for reflection are overridden by defensiveness, anger or a lack of self-awareness or empathy. Sometimes the blame-shifting is trivial and funny: He holds Jordan and the coach Doug Collins to account for a 1988 stretch in which he missed 11 of 12 free throws. “I was to blame, needless to say. Although not entirely. Doug and Michael were also partly responsible,” he writes. “In many games I barely touched the basketball. As a result, I couldn’t sustain any rhythm.”
But Pippen shows more serious moments of dissonance, too.
In perhaps the book’s most reflective moment, Pippen details his regret over not reaching out to Jordan after Jordan’s father died. “Looking back, I wish I could blame my youth for being so incredibly insensitive. I can’t. There is no excuse,” Pippen says. “A friend of mine lost his father and I didn’t say a word to him. I will have to live with that for the rest of my life.”
Yet in the same chapter, he chides Jordan for not telephoning him after he was criticized for sitting out the last 1.8 seconds of a playoff game because he was angry that Phil Jackson, the team’s coach, had called for a teammate, Toni Kukoc, to take what became the game-winning shot. “Not that I expected Michael to call,” Pippen said. “That would have been out of character for him. Then again, I didn’t call him, either.” Of course, it’s unclear how firm Pippen is on his own sentiments.
In June, he said that he believed Jackson’s decision to turn to Kukoc, who is white, was motivated by racism. Pippen, who is Black, walks that claim back in his book: “I told myself at the time that Phil’s decision must have been racially motivated, and I allowed myself to believe that lie for nearly 30 years. Only when I saw my words in print did it dawn on me how wrong I was.”
Then, while promoting the book, Pippen seemed to deny his own denial, which he attempted to clarify during a recent interview with The New York Times: “I feel like it was a moment where he did me wrong. How about that? How about I answer your question that way.”
Posing questions to athletes, especially on television, has long been considered a dream career, and many sportscasters have become celebrities themselves, including Howard Cosell, Hannah Storm and Maria Taylor. Unfortunately, for women that fame also carries downsides that are not experienced by men — scorn and scrutiny that arise precisely because they are women.