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Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen Need to Make Peace by January

Chicago Bulls basketball stars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen sits on the bench during a Chicago Bulls game in Chicago, Illinois in April 1990. The two men will be in position to reunite in January 2024.© Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

During their time on the NBA hardwood, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were a dynamic duo. Their complementary skill sets brought the best out of each other and allowed the Chicago Bulls to produce two separate three-peats and earn a place among basketball’s pantheon.

Don’t mistake on-court success for overall chemistry though. In recent years, Pippen has seized upon multiple opportunities to needle his legendary teammate, creating the impression of a long-simmering feud.

But as 2023 comes to a close, the two men have an overlapping engagement on the calendar: the Bulls’ inaugural Ring of Honor ceremony. And with that in the cards, it’s high time for the two legends to turn the page.

Pippen Has Taken Aim at Jordan in Recent Years

In the world of sports, trash talk is simply part of the landscape. Most of the time, though, the war of words takes place between active players. And while it’s been quite a while since he hung up his sneakers, Pippen hasn’t had a problem going after his old running mate.

Things ramped up after The Last Dance, which shared plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of the two men’s shared time in Chicago. After that series aired, Pippen said that he wasn’t too pleased with the docuseries, and that he had told Jordan as much.

But the comments didn’t end there. During a media tour, Pippen called Jordan selfish and said that The Last Dance’s cameras were working for His Airness and not the Bulls. On other occasions, on-court performances took center stage.

During one conversation, Pippen said that he was never crowned Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) because the voters were busy watching Jordan.

In another, he said that LeBron James was statistically great and that MJ was a “horrible player” before the Bulls started winning.

That Beef Shouldn’t Overshadow the Bulls’ Ceremony

As mentioned above, the Chicago Bulls will be having the franchise’s first Ring of Honor ceremony on January 12. There will also be a gala as part of the festivities. And while everyone’s individual schedules—the induction group includes 13 individuals, plus the entire 1995-96 team—will vary, it’s safe to assume that both Jordan and Pippen will be invited to participate in the celebration.

And no matter what happens, it would be a shame for the (largely one-sided) war of words to overshadow such an event. You can almost picture it now. If one man doesn’t come, regardless of the reason, there will be speculation that they couldn’t face the other. If they’re both there, but stand slightly apart during the ceremony, social media will suggest that there’s simmering tension. And if someone makes a comment that could be interpreted as the slightest bit cold, the sports world will melt down.

From a basketball standpoint, that would be a disaster.

Jordan and Pippen, if nothing else, are both living legends. They both deserve to receive credit and to be remembered for their on-court exploits. And that’s especially true during a Chicago Bulls ceremony that’s designed to honor their legacy and give fans a chance to walk down memory lane.

But a simmering feud, no matter how silly it may be, overshadows that. It shapes the narrative and draws the focus to something that, frankly, doesn’t matter.

As Stan Van Gundy said in a now-deleted tweet regarding Pippen’s DPOY comments, “It’s sad to see a great player so bitter.” And that sentiment isn’t unique to the former coach. In a For The Win post about some of Pippen’s comments, for example, Mike D. Sykes, II, wrote that “It just stinks to see these two teammates who, by all accounts, were once friends now having a bit of a rift in this way.” Elsewhere, a YouTube video with 2 million views refers to Jordan and Pippen as having “the saddest beef in NBA history.”

Again, Pippen shouldn’t be remembered as someone who used to be great before he became a grumpy old man. He, for all the jokes about being little more than a sidekick, is a Hall-of-Fame player with six championships, eight All-Defensive First-Team selections, and two Olympic gold medals to his name. And Jordan’s feats on the hardwood are legendary. Pippen’s return to the Windy City should be a time for positive memories and tributes, not parsing his body language or scrolling through social media wondering what hot take he shared.

That’s not to say that we need to ignore legitimate concerns and brush over genuine legacy-related concerns. Jordan being a jerk during his career or punching teammates, for example, is fair game. But there’s a legitimate difference between those sorts of concerns and a silly, one-sided war of words.

Perhaps returning to the scene of their greatest collective accomplishments can prompt a reconciliation.

From a larger basketball perspective, that would be a slam dunk.