Legitimate grievances and shameful race baiting

Scottie Pippen had some legitimate grievances over the way the Bulls treated Toni Kukoc and seemed to favor him, going back to before Kukoc joined the Chicago Bulls in 1993 and after that. Pippen was right to be irritated that the Bulls paid Kukoc more than him. Pippen was right to feel the Bulls did not value his contributions to the team. The Bulls probably would not have won NBA championships without Pippen.

However, it was morally reprehensible for Pippen to accuse Bulls coach Phil Jackson of “racism” in choosing Kukoc to take the last shot in a critical 1994 playoff game. Maybe Jackson felt Kukoc was a better shooter than Pippen from that range, and Pippen had already missed an opportunity to win the game. The results speak for themselves: Kukoc hit the last-second shot to win the game for the Bulls. Pippen even admitted after the game that “Toni made another outstanding shot and it was a well-called play by Phil.”

Racism is an extremely charged accusation. It can ruin careers and reputations, so it should not be thrown about casually. There is absolutely no evidence, other than Pippen’s personal bitterness, that Jackson called the play because he was “racist” – or that Pippen felt at the time, and still feels to this day, that after all he had done for the organization, he deserved to have the opportunity to take that last-second shot. Maybe he was right, and maybe personal loyalty should have played more of a role.

But professional basketball is a business, and the coach’s job is to win games and hopefully win championships. To still be stewing about it to this day shows immaturity and a real lack of professionalism – and that is the charitable interpretation of what Pippen said. The uncharitable interpretation is that Pippen is recklessly trashing a colleague’s character to sell more books and earn more money.