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Scottie Pippen's 'joyous ride' ends in Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame inductee Scottie Pippen speaks as Michael Jordan listens during the enshrinement ceremony.
Hall of Fame inductee Scottie Pippen speaks as Michael Jordan listens during the enshrinement ceremony.
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — On the day the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame opened its doors for Scottie Pippen, his numerous accomplishments kept pointing to one thing: winning.

"That's what I'm about," Pippen said Friday. "When I look back on my career, I want to be remembered for that."

His enshrinement at Symphony Hall ensured that. Six NBA championships with the Bulls. Sixteen straight playoff appearances with three teams. Two Olympic gold medals.

Not surprisingly, Pippen's favorite memory is of a title.

"Nothing sticks out more than winning a championship in 1991," Pippen said. "When you're with your teammates for so long and so many years and you have that one common goal and you finally achieve it, it's definitely much more special to me than winning a gold medal.

"I went through ups and downs as a young player dealing with criticism, and to finally win that first NBA championship, it was definitely a relief of a lot of pressure and frustration."

With presenter and 2009 Hall of Fame inductee Michael Jordan standing nearby, Pippen delivered a heartfelt, eight-minute acceptance speech as the leadoff honoree from a class that included Karl Malone, the 1960 and 1992 U.S. Olympic teams — the latter of which included Pippen and Jordan — and Chicago native Cynthia Cooper.

"I'll never have another partner like Scottie," Jordan said in a video tribute beforehand.

In contrast to Jordan's barb-filled speech last year, Pippen spent virtually his entire time thanking people. He even asked his high school coach, Donald Wayne, and former Bulls teammates Jordan, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, Dennis Rodman, Pete Myers, Bill Wennington, Randy Brown and Charles Oakley to stand.

"I appreciate playing with you guys," Pippen said. "You will always be in my heart."

Pippen also thanked his parents for raising 12 kids; his wife, Larsa, and their four kids; his college coaches at Central Arkansas; boyhood friend Ronnie Martin; and Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and the entire organization.

"It was really an amazing dynasty in Chicago, and I'm thankful to be a part of it," Pippen said.

Pippen saved special thanks for Jordan and coach Phil Jackson, another Hall of Famer.

"It was so valuable to me as a player to see someone who had the same desire, determination, passion and love for the game," Pippen said of Jordan. "Who knew that No. 23 would be here 23 years later presenting me into the Hall of Fame.

"MJ, you have touched so many peoples' lives but none quite like mine. Thank you for being the best teammate. I will always cherish that experience. And I will cherish our relationship forever."

As for Jackson, Pippen said: "When I said I played with the greatest player, let's not forget I also played for the greatest coach of all time."

Earlier Friday at a news conference, a reflective Pippen spoke of the humbling nature of his honor. He thanked all the Hall of Famers present "for paving the road for me to have something to challenge myself every day."

Pippen had to shed his humility when asked why so many teammates have called him their favorite player with whom to play.

"You hear a coach is a players' coach," he said. "I think I was a players' player. I think guys enjoyed playing with me because I was a willing and giving superstar.

"I didn't have to do anything out of the ordinary to be recognized. I understood the game, that it was give and take. I took advantage of being a giver."

Pippen touched on many highlights from his career. He called guarding Magic Johnson in the 1991 Finals "fun" and credited his Dream Team experience for helping his confidence. He fondly recalled his coming-out 1993-94 season after Jordan retired — "I think people respected me for playing the game the way it should be played rather than trying to score more" — and said smothering defense, for which he was largely responsible, is why the Bulls won six titles.

Not a bad day for a once-gangly kid from Hamburg, Ark.

"I'm so honored because of the path I've taken to get here," Pippen said. "It wasn't the major university. It wasn't the No. 1 pick. I enjoy the fact that all my career, I've had to prove myself. It's been a joyous ride."