Chicago Bulls: 15 best defenders of all-time

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Chicago Bulls
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player. 24. . Forward. 1987-1998. Scottie Pippen. 1

A well-trodden anecdote about Scottie Pippen goes something like this: “What was Scottie without Michael? He never won without Jordan.”

That is a technically true statement. A truly viable comeback, however, is that Michael Jordan also never won a title without Scottie Pippen.

Jordan got the publicity, he got the shoe deals, he was the face of the NBA for years. But Scottie Pippen is somehow still underrated for how he contributed to the dynasty. Underpaid and underappreciated, Pippen still showed up game-after-game, providing a star-level impact on offense and defense.

Defensively, Pippen was a versatile forward who could guard nearly every position. He was generally deployed at small forward, but he had the footspeed to take on backcourt assignments and the strength to slide down to power forward. Throughout his career, he was a solid defensive rebounder and collected a fair amount of blocks.

Where Pippen was truly special was in creating turnovers. His length and reflexes led to a number of steals or deflected passes, and only Jordan stole the ball at a higher rate. Combined, the two made a wing combination that was very nearly impenetrable, and frequently was taking the ball away and heading down to score themselves.

Pippen was not only the defensive ace on six titles teams in Chicago, but he was also on the 1992 U.S. Olympic “Dream Team” as well, right in the mix with some of the league’s all-time greats.

His 52.7 defensive win shares are second in franchise history, his 2.6 Defensive Box Plus-Minus is fourth (and twice that of his teammate Jordan) and again only Jordan has more career steals. Eight times Pippen was named to an All-Defensive team, seven times on the first team.

Next. 15 greatest scorers in Bulls history. dark

The Chicago Bulls have been an up-and-down franchise, commonly scraping low into the valleys in between three areas of dominant play. For each of those contending cores defense was the calling card. From Sloan to Jordan and Pippen to Noah, the Bulls have a long legacy of elite defensive play. For a team currently trying to climb out of a valley again, the heroes of the past can provide a foundation for future growth.