Scottie Pippen's controversial contract with the Chicago Bulls drew renewed scrutiny in recent days after it was featured in “The Last Dance,” a 10-part ESPN documentary chronicling Michael Jordan’s final season with the franchise.
Pippen was Jordan’s most prolific running mate during a Bulls dynasty that won six NBA titles from 1991 to 1998. Despite his on-court success, Pippen was just the sixth-highest paid player on the Bulls roster and the 122nd highest-paid player in the NBA during the 1997-98 season, when Chicago won its sixth and final championship.
Frustrated with his contract, Pippen opted to have surgery shortly before the 1997-98 season, which was the final year of his seven-year, $18 million contract, was set to begin. Jordan was critical of the decision when interviewed on the second episode of “The Last Dance.”
"Scottie was wrong in that scenario," Jordan said. “He could've got his surgery done as soon as the season was over and be ready for the season. What Scottie was trying to do was trying to force management to change his contract. And [Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf] was never going to do that."
Pippen earned $2.775 million in salary during the 1997-98 season. Jordan was paid more than $33 million that year.
Pippen said he originally signed the contract in 1991 in order to protect himself against injury and ensure that he could provide for his family. His agents at the time, Jimmy Sexton and Kyle Rote, advised him against signing the deal.
Even Reinsdorf acknowledged the deal “was a longer contract than I thought was smart with him,” telling the documentary crew that he told Pippen as much during the negotiation process.
Pippen’s ex-wife, “Real Housewives of Miami” star Larsa Pippen, came to his defense shortly after the episode aired.
“Thx for your concern Scottie did ok #TheLastDance,” Larsa Pippen wrote on Twitter alongside a screenshot showcasing his career earnings.
Pippen’s salary skyrocketed after the Bulls sent him to the Houston Rockets in a sign-and-trade deal. After his deal with the Rockets and a final two-year, $10 million stint with the Bulls, Pippen earned more than $109 million in salary during his NBA career.