Scottie Pippen defends move to sit out during '94 Eastern Conference semifinals

In the final seconds of Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals, Scottie Pippen did something most stars wouldn’t ever think of.

He pulled himself out of the game ahead of the final shot out of spite.

That moment was featured during Episode 7 of “The Last Dance” on Sunday night on ESPN. And while he wasn’t necessarily happy about his decision looking back on it, Pippen stands by that move.

“I wish it never happened, but if I had a chance to do it over again, I probably wouldn’t change it,” Pippen said in the documentary.

Chicago Bulls' Scottie Pippen talks with reporters after basketball practice at the Berto Center in Deerfield, Illinois, on May 24, 1994. Questions are being asked after Pippen sat on the bench as the Bulls beat the Knicks 104-102, on Toni Kukoc's last-second shot. (AP/Todd Rosenberg)

Pippen sits out

The Chicago Bulls were tied with the New York Knicks in Game 3 of the playoff series that year with less than two seconds left on the clock. Bulls coach Phil Jackson had called a timeout and was drawing up the final play.

Jackson, instead of giving Pippen the nod, looked for European rookie Toni Kukoc. He had a play drawn up that Kukoc had scored on before and pulled the trigger. Pippen was supposed to inbound the ball instead.

“I felt like it was an insult, coming from Phil,” Pippen said in the documentary. “I was the most dangerous guy on our team, so why you asking me to take the ball out?”

So, Pippen decided he wasn’t going into the game for the final play. 

While the move was stunning, even to this day, Jackson didn’t think much about it in the moment.

“Phil said, ‘F--- him,’ ” Steve Kerr said in the documentary. 

Jackson’s call worked, too. Kukoc drilled the winning bucket, leading the Bulls past the Knicks, 104-102. The emotions in Chicago’s locker room after the fact, however, were anything but happy. Even Jordan, who was watching from afar after his retirement and move to baseball, was upset with Pippen.

There were emotional speeches and tears all around.

“I was obviously happy for making the shot, but the whole situation even going toward the locker room everybody was pissed that everything was not right,” Kukoc said in the documentary.

‘It’s always going to come back to haunt him’

The Bulls lost that series in seven games, snapping their streak of three NBA championships. 

The decision to sit out didn’t end up hurting Pippen much in the long run, either. 

Still, though, that move isn’t something basketball fans are ever going to forget — or allow Pippen to forget.

“It’s always going to come back to haunt him at some point in some conversation,” Jordan said in the documentary. “Pippen knows better than that.”

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