Scottie Pippen Accuses Phil Jackson of 'Racial' Decision for Denying Him Last Shot During '94 Game
Scottie Pippen is speaking out about injustices he said he experienced while playing with the Chicago Bulls.
In a GQ interview published last week, Pippen accused his former Bulls coach, Phil Jackson, of making a "racial move" when he decided to go with Croatian star Toni Kukoc for a last-second shot in a playoff game against the New York Knicks in 1994.
At the time, Bulls legend Michael Jordan was enjoying his first retirement from the NBA, and Pippen was seen as the leader of the team. After learning that Jackson selected Kukoc as the player to take the final shot of that pivotal game, Pippen famously decided to stay on the bench while his teammates returned to the floor.
"It was my first year playing without Michael Jordan, why wouldn't I be taking that last shot?" Pippen explained to GQ. "I been through all the ups and downs, the battles with the Pistons and now you gonna insult me and tell me to take it out? I thought it was a pretty low blow."
"I felt like it was an opportunity to give [Kukoc] a rise. It was a racial move to give him a rise," the 55-year-old continued. "After all I've been through with this organization, now you're gonna tell me to take the ball out and throw it to Toni Kukoc? You're insulting me. That's how I felt."
A representative for Jackson did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment.
The controversial comments went viral on social media, and Pippen addressed them during an interview with Dan Patrick on Monday.
The six-time NBA champion doubled down on his remarks, and when Patrick pointed out Pippen was implying his former coach was "racist," he responded, "I don't have a problem with that."
"Do you think Phil was?" Patrick asked, to which Pippen replied: "Oh yeah."
Pippen then accused Jackson of taking advantage of his Black players, using Jackson's book, The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, to back up his claims. The book was written by Jackson following his stint as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, where he lead the team's stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, to three consecutive championships.
After coming up short in the 2003-2004 season, Jackson left the team, only to return in 2005.
"Do you remember Phil Jackson left the Lakers and then wrote a book on Kobe Byrant and then came back and coached him? I mean, who would do that?" Pippen told Patrick. "You name someone in professional sports that would do that. I think he tried to expose Kobe in a way that he shouldn't have."
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"You're the head coach," he continued. "You're the guy who sits in the locker room and tells the players 'This is a circle, and everything stays within the circle, and that's what team is about.' But you as the head coach, opening up, and now you go out and try to belittle at that time one of the greatest players in the game?"
Jackson has not yet publicly responded to the remarks.