Skip to main content

Teammate: Scottie Pippen was better defender than Michael Jordan

Three-time NBA champion Bill Cartwright told Chicago sports historian Jack Silverstein that Scottie Pippen was a better defender than Michael Jordan. 

Cartwright won three titles with Pippen and Jordan on the Chicago Bulls in 1991, 1992 and 1993. 

“I think it was Pip because Pip could play more positions,” Cartwright said. “He was taller. Both pretty darn good. But Pip could guard the whole floor.”

Pippen is one of the best defenders in NBA history. He made 10 All-Defensive teams and won the 1994-95 steals title. 

“Pip was a great worker,” Cartwright said. “When I first saw Pip in ’88 and ’89, he couldn’t shoot. I’m not even sure if he could make a 15-foot jump shot. But what he was was a really special athlete. He would lope up the floor and then all of sudden he’s past you and the guy who’s guarding him, he’s over the top of him dunking the ball. Extraordinary long. Great instincts. Probably became our best defender and offensively made his game better. 

“Worked during the summer. Worked, worked, worked. Got stronger. Became a 3-point shooter. Pretty amazing story for a kid from from Arkansas. Pip was great. Great teammate.”

Jordan, arguably the greatest player of all time, made nine All-Defensive teams. He won the 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year Award and three steals titles. 

Pippen is seventh all-time in steals and 14th in steals per game, while Jordan is third in NBA history in steals per game and fourth in steals. 

In two stints with the Bulls, Jordan averaged 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.5 steals and 0.9 blocks. He won MVPs, six Finals MVPs and 10 scoring titles.

Pippen also had two stints with the Bulls. He averaged 17.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.9 blocks. Pippen won the 1993-94 All-Star Game MVP Award.

The Bulls went 6-0 in the NBA Finals in the Jordan-Pippen era. They defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics and Utah Jazz (twice).