Chicago Bulls: Scottie Pippen used injury as an opportunity to grow

Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw
Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /

One of the legendary forwards to ever don the Chicago Bulls uniform, Scottie Pippen, recently detailed his first true battle with injury in the NBA.

During his rookie season, former Hall-of-Fame Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen apparently underwent a back injury that would wind up having a career-defining impact. This shows that each and every player in Bulls franchise history that wound up finding his way to the Hall-of-Fame had true trials and tribulations to fight through.

The seven-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA honoree, 1994 All-Star Game MVP, and 10-time All-Defensive Team selection, Pippen is one of the legendary players to ever suit up for the Bulls. But it didn’t all come easy to Pippen. His rookie season didn’t see him start in a single game, and post a player efficiency rating of 12.9.

According to a Basketball Network interview with Pippen last week, a back injury during his rookie season made him realize what the NBA is all about and take some serious strides in the coming years. Pippen detailed within a few quotes how it impacted him personally, and where he was able to go from there.

Here’s what Pippen had to say specifically on the nature of the injury and how it impacted him thereafter.

"Probably the best thing that happened to me was that I hurt my back after my first year in the league because it really put me in a position to focus on the physical aspect of how to survive in this game and how I would survive as a player with a bad back. It was a big challenge for me. I feel like I met that challenge, surviving 16 years of hard playing. Those things that I dealt with early on in my career definitely prepared me for learning and getting better."

There were other presences in the Bulls locker room throughout the early years of Pippen in the Windy City that helped him develop and become the player that helped this team win six titles. Apparently Hall-of-Fame big man Charles Oakley helped him out in a big way in the early years of his career.

"I have to give credit to a lot of veteran players that I played with, too, that toughened me up early, like Charles Oakley. Having the opportunity to play with a guy like Sedale Threatt, who is the epitome of the gym rat. A lot of their habits rubbed off on me, even bad habits too, but you try to hold those down. Those were things that really helped develop me as a player."

Starting in his third year, Pippen was already becoming a first-time All-Star selection. His box plus/minus rating would eclipse 1.5 and never look back until the latter days of his career. The mental toughness aspect also shows for Pippen in the fact that he played in all 82 regular season games in his third and fourth years in the NBA.

The first title for Pippen and the Bulls would come during the 1990-91 season. They would later win another five NBA Championships before it was all said and done for shooting guard Michael Jordan and Pippen. That was also one of the best defensive pairings in NBA history, and tormented the rest of the Eastern Conference for more than a decade.

Next. 5 underrated 2020 NBA Draft prospects. dark

Pippen was originally a first round pick of the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1987 NBA Draft, as a highly touted forward coming out of the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball program. He averaged 17.7 points per game, 6.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks during 12 years playing in the Windy City.