My goal as someone who gets to spend a lot of time around the basketball world is to meet as many members of the championship-winning Chicago Bulls teams as I possibly can, and so far I’m off to a decent start.
John Paxson is obviously the GM of the Bulls, and B.J. Armstrong is Derrick Rose’s agent. I bump into Bill Wennington at games all the time because he does the Bulls’ radio broadcasts, and Steve Kerr has been through Chicago a few times both as a TV announcer and the general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Stacy King does TV for Comcast, Bill Cartwright is an assistant coach, and of course Phil Jackson still heads up the L.A. Lakers. Beyond that, though, I haven’t had much luck. Michael Jordan, for example, is still an elusive delusion for me, though I hope to bump into him someday.
What about Scottie Pippen, you might ask? I have indeed met him—a couple of times, actually—and thus far I’d have to call him the centerpiece of my Bulls championship “collection.”
The first time I met Scottie was during my first season covering the Bulls. In the hallowed halls of the United Center, across from the visitors’ locker room, there’s a small suite stocked with a vast assortment of delicious foods and beverages reserved for friends and family of the team. Pippen, for whatever reason, was invited to partake in the wining and dining on this particular night, and after the Bulls lost he emerged from the room to say hello to some of the opposing players.
Little hand recorder in hand, I noticed him poking his head out while I waited around for the locker rooms to open up for postgame media availability. Shoving the recorder into my pocket so as not to frighten Mr. Pippen (off-duty athletes run from those things like dogs from the vacuum cleaner), and I approached him with my hand extended.
Having spent an entire evening indulging in the free food and spirits, Pip was in an especially jovial mood, and when I introduced myself and told him what a huge fan I was growing up, he practically hugged me. But the exchange was lightning quick and his attention span was Danny Devito short, so the whole experience for me was over before I knew it.
But there he’d been—the second-best player in Bulls history, the guy I’d grown up watching, the man who helped provide my childhood with six NBA championships to celebrate. And there he’d be a couple of years later at All-Star weekend in Phoenix, where I’d introduce myself a second time, and he’d have absolutely no recollection of who on God’s Green Earth I was.
It said a lot to me, though, that he remained cordial, if not distant, during this second first meeting. His smile always seems like it’s at about 80%, so I have no idea how genuine the man is. All I can say is that he was nice enough—twice—and did nothing to make me think of less of him as a human being and childhood hero. I’ve heard stories of him acting rather scatterbrained at times, but who cares. The guy has six rings. He can make 2+2=5 if he wants to as far as I’m concerned.
Next up has to be His Airness. Jordan’s being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, and I’m hoping to be able to make the trek out to Massachusetts to cover the festivities that weekend. That will be my chance, and after that it won’t really matter who else I meet from those championship years. Pip and MJ will be in the bank, and I won’t be able to care less about Jud Buechler and Luc Longley.
Okay, Jud will still be on the list, but who cares about Longley?