Bulls legend Scottie Pippen on decision to retire: "If I had anything to give, I’d leave it here"

Scottie Pippen
"To win our first championship against one of the greatest franchises in the history of our game was a great feeling,” Pippen said of the Bulls' world title over the Lakers in 1991.

October 5, 2004 -- Following the official announcement of his retirement, Scottie Pippen and Bulls GM John Paxson met the media at the Berto Center after the team’s first official training camp practice this season.

Pippen, 39, played in 1,178 games and averaged 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 5.2 apg and 1.96 spg during an illustrious career that placed him among the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all-time in 1996 and brought the Bulls six NBA World Championship titles.

EVP-Basketball Operations John Paxson:

“I’d like to thank everyone for coming today to recognize Scottie. I think back to one of the greatest moves that the Bulls ever made was the day Jerry Krause made the draft day deal to get Scottie. We all benefited from him wearing a Bulls uniform and all the things he did. Every player’s career comes to an end, but it is always sad when the great ones decide to hang it up.

I just want all of our fans to know how much Scottie has meant to our organization and to everyone who has been around him. He’s been a model of consistency as a player and a wonderful teammate. I tell people all the time; you go and talk to all the guys who played with him, they’ll all tell you that he was their favorite teammate--if not their favorite, one of the top two. He was that type of guy.

When we brought him back last year, I knew it was the right thing to do. He belonged in a Chicago Bulls uniform, no matter the fact that he went a couple of other places in between. I think that it’s important that we recognize the guys who have meant so much to the organization and Scottie has meant so much to us. We were lucky to have him in a Bulls uniform for such a long period of time. The Chicago Bulls organization thinks the world of Scottie and he’ll always have a place with us.”

Scottie Pippen:

“First of all, I just want to thank John [Paxson]. He’s given me a great opportunity to come back to a great city that I’ve always loved and always cared about. I thank all the fans for their support over such a long and wonderful career. I knew that one day this day would come and it’s a tough day for me but I also understand that the game of basketball has been so great for me for so long. I just want to thank all the fans and the people of Chicago and everyone who has been very supportive of me and my family. It’s been a wonderful career and I just want to thank you all for it.”

On making the final decision to retire:
“It’s been something that has kind of been lingering I guess since last season, having to go through surgery on my knee. Trying to rehab it comes a little bit tougher for you. Over the years all the minor injuries that I’ve suffered, I felt like they’ve taken a toll on me so maybe it’s time for me to walk away from the game while I’m still able to.”

Without question, you’ve accomplished a lot in your career. Is there a single greatest regret that you have as you leave the game?

“I don’t really have any regrets. I think I learned a lot from a lot of experiences that I dealt with over my career. There’s nothing for me to look back and regret. Everything was a lesson learned and a step forward for me.”

Do you have a single greatest memory?
“I have a lot of favorite memories. To single out one would be looking back on my first day, being drafted by Seattle but not really wanting to go to Seattle. Surprisingly I was able to come to Chicago, to a great city, and play for a great organization. I had the opportunity to have a lot of great teammates and to play with one of the greatest players to ever play the game as well.”

Pippen with Ben Gordon, Pete Myers and others
"[A lot] of these players know me and they idolized me as a player," Pippen said of the current roster. "They want my help and I want to show them that I’m concerned about them getting better and I’m concerned about this team getting better.”

What will you miss about the game and do you see yourself winding up with a front office job?
“I think I will miss the competitive side of it and the camaraderie of being around the players and competing each and every day. That’s the side of it that will be the hardest for me. Going forward, as far as what my next career might be, I haven’t decided yet. I really want to take some time away from the game, even though I’ll be here helping with some of the younger players as much as possible. I will be looking at the game from afar.”

How does it feel when you look back to being on the greatest basketball team ever assembled?

“It’s the greatest. Looking back over my career, I recall playing on the Dream Team [in 1992] with guys I idolized as a young player, having the opportunity to play with those guys and be a part of one of the greatest teams assembled. Those are memories that I’ll never forget. Now that I’m walking away from the game, it gives me an opportunity to really look at some of the great times that I had.”

How would you like to be remembered?
“I think the way I live my life and the way that I played the game, I want to be remembered as a great teammate; one who cared about each and every one of his teammates, who wanted to win, and who gave it his all. I think that’s [how] any of my teammates or coaches or anyone who had any association with me will remember me.”

How was it to win your first NBA title in 1991?

“That was definitely the ultimate, but I think there were some growing pains for us. We were very young and I was in my fourth year in the league. We were just learning. We learned how to battle through different obstacles and stay focused and keep our mind set on what we had to do, our mission at hand. That’s what any great team has to go through and we weren’t any different.”

Which championship was the most special to you?
“I feel it was the first one. It’s always the first because it was a taste for us that we had never ever had before. To get ourselves in the position to be playing in the NBA Finals and bringing this franchise to a position of recognition, it was great for us. To win our first championship against one of the greatest franchises in the history of our game was a great feeling.”

What are your thoughts on the future of the current Bulls team?

“I think that with John at the helm right now, he’s going to continue to make sure that he brings in the best talent and that it all blends together. Just the couple years I’ve been around, it’s a different breed of players now. It is guys who are more competitive, who want to win who are more concerned about the team than they are the individual. Guys who care about getting themselves better. I think that is ultimately what you need to start in the direction of getting your team going and trying to win. You start to build with guys who really care about the game and care about wanting to win.”

You say that you’re going to stick around training camp for awhile. Do you feel like you’ve left something behind or do you just want to help?
“I think that by coming back and having the opportunity to feel that I’m wanted here has helped me in the fact that I can give more to some of these players. I know a lot of these players know me and they idolized me as a player. They want my help and I want to show them that I’m concerned about them getting better and I’m concerned about this team getting better.”

Pippen with rookie Luol Deng
"The sky is the limit for him," Pippen said of Bulls rookie Luol Deng. "He’s one of those players who wants to get better and he’s putting in the work that it takes to get better.”

What do you think your legacy will be?
“I’ve done all I could do as a player. I kind of leave that up to the fans or the individual to judge me as to how I was as a player and as a person.”

Are you 100 percent retiring?
[Laughing] “I’m 100 percent ruling out ever playing again. I’m a 100 percent. Over the last 17 years I’ve gotten all the basketball out of me that I possibly could and there won’t be any returns for me.”

Did you ever consider playing for the Miami Heat this season?
“No. If I had anything to give, I’d leave it here on this floor. I have no intention of going out and trying to join another franchise.”

How are you physically?
“Well, I don’t think it’s as bad as people think it is. But it’s bad enough when you talk about playing in one of the most competitive sports. As great as this game is, there are a lot of battles night in and night out and to say that I could go through an 82 game season right now, I would be kidding myself. I think the fact that I’m able to step aside allows some other young players to develop and take advantage of the opportunity.”

A lot of people suggest that you wouldn’t have accomplished everything you did without Michael Jordan. How do you react to that?
“I’ve heard that numerous times. But as I stand here and as I look back, I don’t think Michael had any championship trophies without me. So that would be my answer to that question.”

Have you looked into coaching?

“Not at the time. I think it is something that’s instilled within me, liking to teach. If the opportunity presents itself I may look into it.”

How long do you plan on sticking around throughout this training camp?
“As much as they need me or until they get tired of seeing me.”

Do you think you can help Luol Deng develop into being a good player?

“I feel like I can. He’s one player who I watched a lot over the summer and he’s a guy who came in and worked out. He’s a guy that’s shown he gets better every time he runs up and down the court. The sky is the limit for him. He’s one of those players who wants to get better and he’s putting in the work that it takes to get better.”

What’s your read on the team that John Paxson has put together for this season?

“Well, it’s obviously a different team and a much younger team. But I think that the players are a different breed. These guys are much more competitive and they are much more willing to listen. I think that’s going to carry a long ways because they have already shown that they want to bond together. They’ve spent an enormous amount of time in the gym here this summer working out with Al [Vermeil] and Erik [Helland] and also doing a lot of skill things out on the basketball court.”

Have you thought about getting your number retired eventually over the last few days?
“I don’t think I’ve thought about it over the last few days. It’s crossed my mind when I see other guy’s numbers when I look up. But I haven’t thought about it.”

You’re one of the final guys from the championship teams to leave the game. Does that give added meaning to this?

“It does. Looking back when I first came here, I was a skinny little young kid out of Arkansas. John Paxson was a seasoned veteran and later on down the road Bill Wennington came in as well. Those are guys who helped pave the way for me and helped me with my development, teaching me how to be a professional, how to come to work early and stay late; they showed me what it takes to be great.”

- Press conference transcript and photos provided by Adam Fluck, Bulls.com


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