Scottie Pippen was recognized by the NBA Retired Players Association on Sunday morning along with Chicago natives Dwyane Wade, Jerry Colangelo, and Cappie Pondexter.
Bulls legend Scottie Pippen Sunday was honored by the National Basketball Retired Players Association as the Legend of the Year at its annual pre-All Star game breakfast in a joyous, somber, reflective and almost surreal ceremony as Pippen recounted apparently hearing the helicopter crash that Sunday morning last month that stunned the world well beyond sports.
"This gives me a chance to thank commissioner (David) Stern, to say how great he was," said Pippen, who was dressed in a white hooded sweat shirt under a blue sport jacket and glasses. "To thank even Jerry Krause, to tell him how great of a GM he was. And also Kobe Bryant.
"Three weeks ago when I got the news about Kobe, I somehow heard the incident living in LA, living in Woodland Hills; it was a weird morning," said Pippen. "I'm still today regretting that I didn't get a chance to tell Kobe Bryant just how great he really was and by a round of applause can you guys tell me how great Kobe Bryant was. As I receive this award, I remember two of the greatest legends, Kobe Bryant and commissioner Stern.
Scottie Pippen played for the Bulls from 1987 to 1998 before returning and playing for Chicago in the '03-'04 season.
"Thank all you legends for braving the weather," Pippen concluded in his brief but poignant remarks before some 3,000 in McCormick Place.
The Legends organization representing former players is headquartered in Chicago and led by CEO Scott Rochelle. His father, Ron, was a player for the historic and groundbreaking 1963 Loyola NCAA championship team. The annual Legends breakfast is one of the premier events of All-Star weekend. It was hosted by Ernie Johnson of TNT with remarks, recollections and recitations from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Magic Johnson, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, players association director Michele Roberts and Chicago musical artist Common, who was raised in Chicago as Lonnie. His father Lonnie Lynn from DuSable High School was briefly an ABA player and Lonnie, aka Common, once worked as a Bulls ball kid. Common closed the show with a rap performance dedicated to the All-Star weekend and participants.
Also honored by the Legends Association was South Side native Dwyane Wade for his community work with the Community Ambassador award, Chicago Heights native Jerry Colangelo with the Lifetime Achievement award (Colangelo was a founding Bulls employee) and WNBA champion from Marshall High School Cappie Pondexter with the Hometown Hero award.
Numerous former Bulls players were in attendance, including Bob Love, Ron Harper, Mickey Johnson, Artis Gilmore, David Wood, and teammate Horace Grant, who introduced Pippen.
"I can't believe I'm doing this for this guy," Grant joked about his longtime friend from their rookie seasons together in 1987. "I'm here to present the Legend of the Year award to my good friend and teammate and my boy Scottie Pippen. Grant read a list of Pippen's accomplishments and admitted he didn't know Pippen was an eight-time first team all-defensive player. Grant was so impressed he repeated the honor and asked the audience if they could imagine that. Grant, the back line defender for those early championship Bulls and now a team ambassador, then added with a wink, "And that was because of me."
Horace Grant & Scottie Pippen talk with Bob Costas after defeating the Phoenix Suns for the 1993 NBA Championship
Grant said the committee asked him to offer some personal comments.
Grant said: "Thank god there was no TMZ or phone camera technology back in our days."
In a short film about Pippen's career these were some comments about him:
Bill Walton: "One of the greatest defensive players in the history of basketball."
Joe Dumars: "He was a complete ballplayer."
Michael Jordan: "I could always count on each and every day Scottie being ready to play. Once you started to see where his talent was you could understand how great he was going to be. I saw it everyday in practice."
Scottie Pippen huddles with Michael Jordan in a 1998 game against the Charlotte Hornets
David Wood, meanwhile, played briefly for the Bulls in the 1988-89 season when Pippen and Grant were just starting to break through and the Bulls were launching their run to what eventually would be six NBA titles. He said Scottie and Horace always were ordering him around as a rookie to bring them things and carry their bags. "They'd been harassed constantly by (Charles) Oakley when they were rookies and they wanted to take it out on someone. Finally, I asked the trainer, Mark Pfeil, if I had to do that. He said new employees of companies don't have to carry the bags of the CEO, so I shouldn't have to, either. Then Michael Jordan tells me to carry his bag. I say someone from the Bulls organization told me I don't have to do that. So Michael says, ‘I am the Bulls organization.'
"Actually, he was kidding. He always liked to carry his bags so he wouldn't have to sign all the autographs."
With dozens of legendary players like Bill Russell, Dikembe Mutombo, Wayne Embry, Archie Clark and Ann Meyers Drysdale in attendance, there were many, many stories.