Unguarded by Scottie Pippen with Michael Arkush. Atria Books. 303 pages. 2021
Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest players in the history of the National Basketball Association. He is a six-time world champion with the Chicago Bulls and a member of the Hall of Fame. He also won two Gold Medals as a member of the U.S. Olympic Basketball team. I, along with my family, was blessed to see the Bulls play in person many times during their incredible run, even though tickets were incredibly hard to get. It was a very special time in sports, one that I doubt I will ever see again.
Until now, Pippen has not written his autobiography, though his career was certainly worthy of one. After watching the acclaimed 2020 ESPN documentary The Last Dance, (for which teammate Michael Jordan was paid $10 million and no other Bull was paid anything), Pippen decided it was time to tell his story. He writes that there is a great deal in the ESPN documentary that has no business being in there, and also that a great deal that should have been included has been left out. Pippen writes that the documentary failed to give his Hall of Fame career the treatment it deserves. He states that The Last Dance was Jordan’s chance to tell his story, and Unguarded is Pippen’s.
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There is no doubt that there were a few instances in Pippen’s time with the Bulls that made him look bad in the documentary (In particular, his infamous failure to take the floor with 1.8 seconds to go in a 1994 playoff game after Phil Jackson called the final play for a teammate, rather than Pippen, to get the final shot (Something he would never forgive Jackson for, writing that their relationship would never be the same no matter what triumphs would lie ahead. The moment of truth had come, and Jackson had abandoned him), and intentionally delaying a needed surgery in 1997 to get back at Bulls’ leadership, which put a strain on Jordan to carry the team without Pippen in their final season). Unfortunately, for Pippen, those incidents took actually did take place.
Although I enjoyed reliving Pippen’s incredible career, I don’t think he has done his legacy any favors with this book. Throughout the book, he is critical of many players, coaches, and Bulls’ team leadership, with Jordan often taking the brunt of the criticism (though Pippen chose Jordan as his official presenter when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame). Below are a few quotes that illustrate this:
- I was a much better teammate than Michael ever was. Ask anyone who played with the two of us.
- There’s no doubt in my mind I was superior to Michael in both individual and team defense. Even before he retired, I had come to the conclusion that I was our best all-around player.
- My biggest complaint was how much Doug (Collins) was in love with Michael. He was more of a fan than a coach. With Doug, it always came down to the double standard he set: one set of rules for Michael, one for everyone else.
- I never got the sense Phil (Jackson) believed in me. Not the way he believed in Michael.
- I realize now that plenty of times when Michael and I were critical of Jerry Krause (General Manager), we should probably have pointed the blame at Jerry Reinsdorf (Owner).
- We’re still not one big happy family, and that’s on the Bulls. They have done very little to honor any of the other five championship teams, including the 1995–96 group that won 72 games. They act as if those teams never existed.
Pippen writes lovingly about his family. He was in eighth grade when his father suffered a stroke. He tells us that from then on, he could never be the father Pippen needed him to be or show him what is required to be a man—a black man, especially, in a white world. Pippen writes that the Lord is a powerful presence in his life today, and that’s because of his mother, who died just a few years ago.
Despite indicating that the Lord is a powerful presence of his life, he is unrepentant of putting his career ahead of his marriage and young son. He writes shockingly “That meant letting go of Karen, who had become my wife, and a son, Antron, who was born that past November. I just didn’t have the time to be a good husband or a good father, and the sooner she and I realized that the better. The divorce would become final in 1990. I made a commitment to another family, my teammates. For which I have no regrets.” Pippen would later get remarried, and they would have four additional children. Sadly, Antron died not long ago from complications related to asthma at the age of thirty-three.
Pippen writes about racism, indicating that no matter how many championships he has won, he never forgets the color of his skin, and that some people hate him just because of that. Recalling an incident that took place, he writes that it was another reminder of the racism that was rampant in Chicago and still is.
Pippen writes throughout how much he was disrespected by the Bulls regarding his contract, mentioning that he was severely underpaid. Repeatedly, he demanded that the Bulls (and later the Houston Rockets) trade him. After leaving the Bulls, Pippen would play for Houston and Portland, before finishing his career back with the Bulls.
This book, which includes some adult language, was a mixed bag for me. I very much enjoyed reliving the glory years of the Bulls in the 1990’s when they won 6 NBA Championships, and once again appreciating the excellent player Pippen was. Unfortunately, I was turned off by all of the negative aspects he brings to his story. He often comes off as bitter and jealous of Michael Jordan.
- New Tim Keller Book. Tim Keller’s next book – Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I? – will release November 1.
- Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy has published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
- Embracing our Finitude. Melissa Morgan Kelley reviews Kelly Kapic’s new book You’re Only Human, which we are reading here on the blog. She writes that the book “holds a mirror up to harried 21st-century life, revealing how often we overcommit ourselves and how rarely we are content.”
- New Book from John Piper. What Is Saving Faith? the new book from John Piper, explains that a Savior who is treasured for his all-satisfying worth is more glorified than a Savior who is only trusted for his all-forgiving competence. In this way, saving faith reaches its God-appointed goal: the perfections of Christ glorified by our being satisfied in him forever.
- Book Review: Let Us Worship God, by Derek Thomas. Scott Joseph reviews Derek Thomas’ new book Let Us Worship God: Why We Worship the Way We Do. He writes “You’ll learn about various aspects of corporate worship, which in turn will help you to appreciate the massive common ground enjoyed by paedo-Baptists and credo-Baptists in the broadly Reformed tradition. Though there may be disagreements, we all have much to learn from a godly, experienced minister like Derek Thomas.”
- The Habit Podcast: Sandra McCracken Sends Out Light. On this episode of The Habit Podcast, Jonathan Rogers talks with Nashville singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken. Sandra released her first book in 2021. Send Out Your Light: The Illuminating Power of Scripture and Songis a memoir of a creative life and a meditation on the creative process.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 28: Joseph God’s Good Meaning in a Sinful Act. Here are a few quotes from the chapter:
- Joseph’s remark about God’s intention is one of the most important statements on the providence of God in all the Bible.
- Here is the intersection of divine and human willing—our intending and God’s intending in one set of sinful decisions and their practical action.
- God’s will, not the brothers’ will, is ultimately decisive. God has ultimate sway. God has ultimate self-determination, not the brothers.