Favorite quotes from Scott Pippin’s biography “Unguarded”

These are my favorite passages from reading Scottie Pippin’s biography.

“grew four inches to six foot five and wasn’t done yet. I would eventually end up around six foot seven. Anyone who hadn’t seen me for a while, the first thing they usually brought up was my height: “Man, you’re getting up there.” The added size would serve me well. I already possessed the passing skills of a point guard. Now I could employ those skills against smaller defenders. If guys doubled me, I would be able to see above them and easily spot the open man.”

“The deal soon became official. I wouldn’t have to pretend for another second. I exchanged my Seattle hat for a Chicago hat and called home. One of my brothers told me Dad cried when he heard the commissioner call my name. Dad never saw me play basketball in person, which saddens me to this day. At least he saw the moment my dream came true.”

“The next morning, I flew to Chicago, where I was formally introduced with the player chosen at No. 10, a power forward from Clemson, Horace Grant. Horace and I met for the first time at the hotel the day before the draft. The two of us had a great deal in common, both from small towns in the South—Horace growing up in Mitchell, Georgia, which had fewer people than Hamburg. I didn’t think that was possible. I saw in him the same hunger I had in me, the same work ethic. God gives us the talent. We have to do the rest. Our friendship would be critical in those early days. Both of us had entered a new world we knew nothing about: A more physical style of play. Back-to-back games. Long plane rides. Reporters ready to pounce on your slightest mistake. Etc., etc. There was so much to get used to about life in the NBA. As we grew closer, Horace and I would often greet each other by repeating: “Nineteen eighty-seven, nineteen eighty-seven.” The year our lives changed forever.

“I got his attention, all right, the first time we played against each other. He was guarding me as if it were Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I weaved into the lane and slammed it home with authority. I knew I couldn’t allow Michael Jordan to intimidate me.”

“vividly recalled the jumper he hit in 1982 against Georgetown to win the national championship. It’s just that I was consumed with my own game and what I needed to work on. Michael was where he wanted to be. I was not. I ended up with 17 points in twenty-three minutes, having success both inside and outside. In the next game, also against the Jazz, I followed up with another 17 points, as well as 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals—the kind of all-around performance I would later pride myself on. As Phil Jackson and one of his assistant coaches, Jim Cleamons, would tell me over and over, “Scottie, you don’t need to score the basketball to be effective.” The battle, meanwhile, was on with Brad. He and I were bringing out the best in each other. That was bound to benefit the whole team no matter who got the nod. The battle was especially intense during practice.”

“Oak knew everyone in Chicago and went out of his way to make sure I got to know them, as well. That would pay off in more ways than I could ever anticipate. Basketball, and this privileged life I was lucky to lead, would not last forever. The more people I knew in other fields, such as business and entertainment, the better.”

“The best coaches are critical in a constructive manner. They don’t humiliate their players. They nurture them. They patiently explain, one-on-one, during a time-out or at the next best opportunity, what the guy did wrong. Not Doug. Never Doug. One night, against the Milwaukee Bucks, he became so agitated with me he sounded like a fan. “You don’t deserve your paycheck, the way you’re playing!” he shouted. Everyone on the team could hear him. Every man, woman, and child in the arena could hear him. I could take it, that wasn’t the point. It was about respect. Doug, whether he was my coach or not, needed to respect me as I needed to respect him. I knew better than anybody else when I made a mistake. I didn’t need him to point it out to the rest of the world. For someone who was supposed to be on my side, he sure had a funny way of showing it.”

“The team doctor is looking out for just that, the team. Not the player and not his long-term future.”

“For the life of me, I don’t recall when I first hurt my back. My guess is it took place while I was lifting weights, though lifting my dad and brother when I was in high school couldn’t have done those muscles any good. If teams had been more cautious in the late 1980s, as they are these days—the way, in 2019, the New Orleans Pelicans protected their rookie sensation, Zion Williamson—I would probably have missed a good portion of the season. No one in my circle ever suggested something to the effect of “Hey, why don’t we just take some time off to allow this to heal?” I wish they had.”

“Sedale enjoyed a drink or two, everyone knew that. You could sometimes smell the alcohol on his breath when he showed up at practice. Yet he was one heck of a player. He could go from club to club the night before and still give you 15 points and guard his man as if there were no tomorrow. Sedale would get so excited about going into a game he used to hyperventilate the first few minutes. That, ladies and gentlemen, is known as passion, and I was lucky to have him as a teammate.”

“meant you practiced for two hours and got the rest of the day off. Since then, I had learned so much. That if you are truly dedicated to your craft, two hours is nothing. You need to remain in the gym long after practice has ended. To work on the parts of your game that need work. And the parts that don’t. Even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. The key is to constantly remind yourself that at this point in your life, nothing in this world is more important than basketball. That means making sacrifices, some small, some large, almost all painful. That’s why they are called sacrifices and why most players don’t dig deep enough. They might play in the league for fifteen years and even be an All-Star. Yet by not digging deep enough, they will never know how good they could have been. I didn’t want that happening to me. That meant letting go of Karen, who had become my wife, and a son, Antron, who was born that past November. I still adored Karen as much as ever and was thrilled to have a son. 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. We spent a lot of time together, on the road especially. For me and Horace, being rookies, this was the first time in our lives we had our freedom and the money to take advantage of it. That can be a very good—or very dangerous—combination. In our case, it was very good, and a lot of that was from being surrounded by veterans who enjoyed themselves yet never crossed the line.”

“made a conscious decision at the time and not once did I regret it. I wasn’t going to be one of those people desperately trying to get Michael Jordan to like me. Only by charting my own course, and not relying on him for validation, would I reach my potential as a player and, more important, as a human being. Being surrounded for as long as I could remember by eleven brothers and sisters who loved me unconditionally, I never felt the need to win someone over. They were my best friends then and always will be.”

“In Chicago, we couldn’t manage to score 80 points in either game. The Pistons took Game 3, 101–79, and Game 4, 96–77. They put us out of our misery in Game 5. The final: 102–95. The only positive from the season coming to an end was that I could give my back a much-needed rest. The Pistons, as physical as they were—vicious might be a more accurate way to put it—were the worst possible team to play if you’re not at 100 percent. Every drive down the lane, every scramble for a loose ball, felt more like rugby than basketball.”

“Friedrich Nietzsche, the nineteenth-century German philosopher, said that if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. Mr. Nietzsche never met Bill Laimbeer. The guy was a thug.”

“The operation went smoothly, according to the doctors, who were optimistic I would make a full recovery. I wasn’t so sure, especially in the first couple of weeks when I couldn’t move my right leg and the pain in my back remained constant and sharp. They assured me this was a normal response to the procedure. Easy for them to say. My future was on the line, not theirs. I thought of Ronnie and Dad and how they spent day after day trapped in a wheelchair. Would that happen to me? The feeling slowly began to come back in my leg. I was never so relieved. Every day, I went for a stroll around the neighborhood. One area, known as Picardy Circle, had a beautiful pond in the back. I walked around the circle over and over. I began to know it better than my own house. For six weeks, the walk was my only exercise. I wasn’t allowed to sit in a car until I went to see Dr. Schafer for a checkup. Doug and Jerry reached out every so often, which I appreciated, while my brother Jimmy kept me company until I could manage on my own. As I look back, the operation was a godsend.”

“Not just because it alleviated the pain and allowed me to resume my career, but because it set me on a new training regimen I would adhere to from then on. “If you want to play this game for a long time,” Dr. Schafer said, “you are going to have to work on your back and keep it strong.”

“I knew how the NBA worked—teams demanding loyalty from their players while rarely showing it themselves in return—and there had been rumors Oak was on the trading block. I was stunned nonetheless. Oak was the first player traded whom I was close to. The fans see us as nothing more than pawns on a giant chessboard, never giving any thought to the tight relationships we are forced to give up when we are sent, without our consent, to another city. That doesn’t usually happen in other professions.”

“Good question. Rebounding wasn’t the only thing we were losing. Oak was a leader in a way MJ could never be. Every team needs a Charles Oakley. Someone who would die for you. On his way out the door, Oak criticized the organization for not giving him the proper respect. I knew exactly how he felt.”

“Phil, meanwhile, was gaining respect with each passing day. Joining the team the same time I did, Phil started at the bottom, behind Tex and Johnny Bach, another assistant coach. He wouldn’t stay there for long. He was too knowledgeable. Everyone could see that. He possessed one skill Doug couldn’t master in a million years. Phil could communicate.”

“wasn’t the only one who had doubts it could work. Why, if it was so ingenious, were no other teams running it? In the past, players focused only on where they, themselves, were on the court. Now they would have to keep track of where everyone else was, and that’s a big difference.”

“Every player on the court touched the ball on just about every possession, all feeling they were part of the offense whether they took the shot or not. Working together, we learned to value and trust one another. The players who believe in one another, and sacrifice for one another, are the players who win championships.”

“Phil was critical in a constructive way. He didn’t embarrass us in front of our fans or teammates. He pulled guys off to the side or asked one of the assistant coaches to explain what we did wrong. I felt respected as a player and, more important, as a man. I didn’t go along with some of the Zen stuff he introduced to the team, such as the burning of sage and having us close our eyes and meditate. Sorry, Phil. I know you meant well. That was just way too out there for a country boy like me. Nor did I read the books he handed out every year as presents.”

“On the other hand, I totally bought into what he was saying about a basketball team being a pack, and not a collection of separate individuals. More than the X’s and O’s, that was Phil Jackson’s most valuable contribution to the Chicago Bulls. He got us to bond. To be one. Instead of going directly from the hotel to the arena for practice, he mixed things up on occasion by taking the team on a tour of the DC landmarks or to visit the Statue of Liberty. There is a fine line between spending enough time with your teammates away from the court and spending too much time with them. Phil was a player for many years. He knew where the line was.”

“His back bothered Phil so much he couldn’t stand in one place for more than a few minutes. He walked around the perimeter of the court, chiming in every so often with a suggestion that made me think about my role in a whole different way. I learned how to let the game come to me and not force the action if the opportunity didn’t present itself. Instead of driving recklessly into the lane, I would pull up and take the midrange jumper.”

“So what if it was only practice? To beat a team that had Michael was a chance for the guys on the second unit to prove themselves. When they did win, they gained a ton of confidence. I believe that’s why they came up big during that amazing fourth-quarter run in Game 6 of the 1992 Finals. The group that outplayed the Blazers for those vital three or four minutes was the same group that used to, on occasion, defeat Michael’s team in practice. They knew they could do it.”

“The practices were structured, every movement, every drill having a purpose. “Go hard, go short, make it productive,” he told us. That was another part of the man’s genius. By the time the game got under way, we couldn’t wait to unleash the energy that we had kept bottled up.”

“I was considered the voice of the defense, the player who directed everyone where to go. My deep voice was perfect for the task, loud enough to be heard above the noise of the crowd and the other players on the court. Some voices get lost out there.”

“That I was trying to be like Mike. I wasn’t trying to be like Mike. I was trying to get along with every player on the team, from Michael to the last man on the bench. As Phil told us over and over, we would need everyone to contribute if we were going to do what we failed to do in 1988 and 1989. To beat the fucking Pistons.”

“We took the first two games at the Stadium and ended up beating the Sixers in five. I don’t remember much about that series. Basketball was the last thing on my mind. Shortly before Game 2, one of my brothers called to say Dad had twenty-four hours to live. The news wasn’t unexpected. His health had been declining for some time. When I arrived at the hospital in Arkansas, Dad was hooked to a feeding tube and didn’t know I was there. He passed away the next day at the age of sixty-nine.”

“Losing him hit me hard. Ever since the stroke, he hadn’t been active in my life. Yet he was still my dad, and it meant the world to me every time someone in the family told me he was watching one of my games on TV. I only wish I could, in those final hours, have told him one last time how much I loved him.”

“With Michael cast as the hero, someone had to play the villain. Care to guess whom they chose for the part? Besides, I never felt I had to prove something to these “experts.” The only people I had to prove something to were the men in the locker room. Who made the same sacrifices I did, year after year, and experienced the same setbacks.”

“Phil tried to create that feeling with the triangle and the meditation and his preaching about Oneness. He succeeded, to a point. We were more united than we were under Doug Collins. However, only when we, the players, made the commitment on our own after losing Game 7 to the Pistons did we truly begin to bond. With any bond comes trust. Trust your teammate will be where he is supposed to be. That he will make the open shot. That he will help out when your man gets by you. That he will sacrifice everything for the same goal you have: winning a championship.”

“Meanwhile, Jerry Krause was pursuing Toni Kukoc, a six-foot-eleven forward from Yugoslavia, as if he were the Second Coming of Larry Bird. The money the Bulls could have paid me, they were saving for Toni, whom they had selected in the second round of the 1990 draft. Toni would decide a few months later to keep playing in Europe. For the time being. Same old Jerry. Always more in love with what he didn’t have. That went for players and coaches. The press made what I said into a big deal, which I suppose it was. I could have chosen my words more carefully, that’s for sure, and I probably didn’t help my cause by going public. I was frustrated. I didn’t know what else to do.”

“So why wasn’t I on the All-Star team? One explanation was that I hadn’t been forgiven for the migraine. As if it were my fault that my head had been about to explode. Another was that I was being penalized for a slow start. Either way, I never felt the same about the All-Star Game after that. To me, it was a popularity contest, nothing more.”

“With 7.9 seconds to go, a number of Pistons left their bench and walked right by us on the way to the locker room. No waiting until the buzzer sounded. No shaking hands. No congratulating us on a job well done or wishing us good luck in the Finals. No respect. Nothing.”

“Sometimes I pretended I was Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the six-foot-nine point guard for the Lakers, who, along with Bird, was taking the NBA to a whole new level in the early 1980s. Magic was unlike any other point guard the sport had ever seen. He could see the play before it happened. I studied his game for years. Be like Mike? I wanted to be like Magic.”

“Magic, meanwhile, was… Magic. Anytime a teammate got in the clear, even for a split second, Magic found him in perfect rhythm. I swear the man had eyes in the back of his head. He made his share of key baskets, as well. His two three-pointers to close the third quarter gave his team a 75–68 advantage.”

“I knew exactly what I wanted to do: force the ball out of his right hand. Magic was a maestro with his right hand. He could make passes from anywhere. From half-court, full court, from Pasadena, if need be. I stayed on his right side, and when he dribbled with his right hand, I made him turn and shift the ball to his left, the way Coach Ireland taught me all those years ago. Magic didn’t pass with his left hand. He also loved to throw it off the bounce, so any time I could get him to stop his dribble, he wasn’t as effective.”

“In that game, Michael made a shot everyone remembers, perhaps as much as The Shot. In the fourth quarter, he drove toward the hoop, the ball stretched out in his right hand. He was going to slam it home. Except, on this occasion, with Perkins near him in the lane, Michael, in midair, switched the ball to his left hand and laid it in off the glass.”

“One evening, I appeared as a guest on The Arsenio Hall Show. Arsenio was a tremendous talent, although far eclipsed by the king of late-night TV, Johnny Carson. Remind you of anyone? Anyway, back to the stars on the court.”

“Michael did exactly what Phil told him and, in doing so, showed a level of trust in a teammate he had never shown before, and it was about time. From then on, through the nineties, Michael, to a large degree, bought into what Phil and Tex had been preaching from day one. Take what the defense is giving you. Find the open man.”

“Michael might have the MVP trophy, but I have the basketball. It’s tucked away in a safe place. Along with my memories, of the evening itself (my stat line: 32 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 steals) and everything I had to go through to get there. Of watching my brother and father turn into invalids. Of Coach Wayne kicking me off the team in high school and later forcing me to run the bleachers. Of being overlooked by one college after another until Coach Dyer gave me a chance. Of the shooting pains in my back and being terrified my career might be over. Of the concussion and the migraine and fans wondering if I would ever show up when it counted most.”

“The journey to that point had been difficult, sometimes almost unbearable, but each of those experiences made me stronger. They made me a champion. I think about the 1991 title a lot, it being the first. We were so young then, so innocent. The season wasn’t as smooth as it appeared, someone always complaining about one slight or another, me included. Every team goes through periods like that over the course of 82 games. What matters is how you cope with those periods, and no one coped better than Phil Jackson. He kept us believing in ourselves. He kept us as One.”

“In the end, Michael decided to join the team. Not because he felt a sudden sense of duty to Uncle Sam. He played to help grow the game and, let’s be frank, his brand. Two of his biggest corporate sponsors, McDonald’s and Gatorade, would also be sponsoring the Games. The optics would have been awful if he had stayed home.”

“To me, him contracting the virus was another reminder of how quickly everything can be taken away. Not that I needed any more. I just had to think of my own family. No one displayed a pure love for the game as enthusiastically, and as genuinely, as Magic Johnson did. Then or ever since. As incredible as he was on the court, I admire him more for how he has conducted himself off the court. A death sentence? Hardly. There is no one I’ve ever met who is more alive.”

“Think about it: Jerry spent years trying to assemble a championship roster, and now that his dream had come to fruition, he wasn’t getting the credit. Michael was. Jerry was the most insecure man I ever met. It made him work hard and become an excellent general manager. It also made him petty and vindictive. So he decided to take Michael down. Just a notch. Jerry assumed he could control what Sam wrote. That was his mistake. He had been around the media long enough to know better. In any case, the book didn’t take Michael down. Not even close. Okay, so he wasn’t a saint. Who is? He was the most beloved athlete in the world, except for maybe Muhammad Ali. Nothing in a reporter’s tell-all book was going to change that.”

“Phil was always able to make us believe it was us against the world, especially after we won our first championship. That’s what happens when you become the best. People want to destroy you. We often felt as if we were fighting members of our own organization—and the media—as much as we were fighting the other teams. The book turned out to be a blessing. From then on, we were more guarded with what we said to one another, and to the press, sparing us, no doubt, further controversy.”

“Their center, Patrick Ewing, was one of the toughest players we ever had to guard. He could hit the midrange jumper and do a ton of damage in the paint. Double-teams didn’t seem to bother him. Oakley was another problem. Playing against Oak was like going to war. You knew he would come at you for every rebound. Their other big man, Anthony Mason, in his third year, was also a bruiser. The Knicks were, essentially, the new Pistons. Just our luck. We had only recently figured out how to beat the old Pistons. Even so, we were extremely confident heading into Game 1 at the Stadium.”

“In his postgame interview at the Garden, still fuming, he went after the NBA. “I think they’re probably licking their chops on Fifth Avenue,” Phil said, referring to the league’s headquarters in New York. “I don’t like orchestration; it sounds fishy, but they do control who sends the referees. If it goes seven games, everybody will be really happy. Everybody will get the TV revenue and ratings they want.”

“For Michael to take on that role sent a powerful message to the Knicks: this is our court and our game and we are not going to back down to you thugs for one second.”

“I’d studied his game for years, like I studied Magic’s. Clyde was a right-handed penetrator who seldom dribbled to his left. Our mission in every playoff series, as Phil put it, was to cut off the head of the opponent’s snake. On the Blazers, the snake was Clyde. He averaged 25 points that season, finishing second to MJ in the MVP race. Some put the two in the same category. As you might expect, Michael didn’t like to be compared to Clyde. Michael didn’t like to be compared to anyone.”

“Ironically, the only reason he ended up with the Bulls in the first place was because the Blazers, who owned the pick ahead of them in 1984, already had Clyde (drafted the year before) and thought they didn’t need a player with a similar skill set. Guess again.”

“As for me, I didn’t care how many minutes I got. I told Coach Daly and his assistants, If you need me in crunch time, wonderful. If you need me in garbage time, that’s wonderful, too. At twenty-six, the youngest player besides Laettner, I felt blessed merely to be a member of this incredibly special group. I was in paradise.”

“The Dream Team had a definite hierarchy, as there is on any team. It went like this: Magic and Larry at the top, Michael one rung just below. Give Michael credit. He deferred to Magic and Larry, letting them share the honor of being cocaptains. Michael was the best player in the game, but Magic and Larry had paved the way for Michael. The NBA wasn’t very popular before those two arrived in the fall of 1979. The Finals—the Finals—were often shown on tape delay after the eleven o’clock news. That didn’t change for good until the Lakers played the Sixers in 1982.”

“I think of the game one day in practice between the Blue Team led by Magic (which included Barkley, Mullin, Robinson, and Laettner) and the White Team led by Michael. Of all the basketball that was played from La Jolla through Barcelona, the game in Monte Carlo was at a level beyond anything else. The Last Dance captured it well: the trash talking between Magic and Michael and how Michael’s team, which I was on (the other three players were Larry, Karl, and Patrick), came back to win. What the doc could not capture—no footage possibly could—was what it felt like to watch the best players in the world put their heart and soul into a game that meant nothing. And everything.”

“It was as if we had gone back in time, to when we were boys on courts such as Pine Street, playing for the pure love of the game. The game that gave us a life even more amazing than the one in our dreams. From Monte Carlo, we went to Barcelona, and what we saw when we got there I will never forget.”

“Something else happened on the way toward the United States capturing the gold medal in Barcelona. I gained respect from a place where it had been absent for the longest time. From Michael Jordan. He came to the conclusion that I was the best all-around player on the team—and on occasion even outplayed him. He never told me that himself. That wouldn’t be like him. He told Phil at training camp in the fall of 1992, and I didn’t hear about it until many years later. Either way, that is high praise from someone with three MVPs, and to this day, it means a lot to me. At the same time, and I can’t express this emphatically enough, it doesn’t mean everything.”

“The “controversy” was similar to when The Jordan Rules came out two years earlier. We were on top and someone was trying to take us down. They failed then and they would fail this time. If anything, as in ’91, it brought the team closer together. When Michael boycotted the media, the rest of us did the same—for a while. Not that I would consider avoiding the reporters to be a sacrifice. More like a blessing.”

“Why didn’t I make a stronger effort? Perhaps I didn’t want to deal with Michael’s grief. Just as I didn’t deal with my own grief when my dad passed away three years earlier. I’ve always been good at running away from that kind of pain. Too good.”

“Rather, to the fatigue he experienced, physically and mentally. I compare it to what a running back in the NFL has to endure over the years. The hits add up. Till you get to the point where your body tells you enough is enough. Your body doesn’t lie.”

“I won’t lie. As much as I would miss Michael, a part of me was looking forward to seeing what life would be like without him. Even before he retired, I had come to the conclusion that I was our best all-around player. Before you jump down my throat, let me explain. I mean player, not scorer, and there is a big difference. I was the facilitator for the offense and the anchor for the defense—the guy who made everyone else better. The way Magic was on the Lakers. The chemistry, the caring, the sharing—that was the culture I created and nurtured, not Michael. And that’s the culture that made us champions. Granted, we wouldn’t have been in that position if not for his heroics.”

“Michael who? To me, it was no mystery why we were playing so well. Guys were passing the ball as never before, not content until they spotted the open man.”

“There was plenty in the statement I didn’t agree with. I signed off anyway. I was as anxious to get the matter over with as Jerry was. My job wasn’t to speak out against racism. My job was to help the Chicago Bulls win basketball games.”

“The word was the fans in the Pacific Northwest weren’t too keen on giving up Kemp, who was only twenty-four. I would turn twenty nine in September. To me, it made no difference that, in the end, the trade didn’t go through. The damage had been done.”

“Just ask Horace, who signed a six-year deal with the Orlando Magic in July of 1994 for $22.3 million. I was happy for him. He was finally gaining the respect he deserved. People asked if I tried to persuade him to stay in Chicago. Absolutely not. I would never stand in the way of a player and the payday he had coming.”

“Furthermore, he wasn’t in what I like to refer to as midseason condition. I don’t care who you are. You can’t show up for a few practices and expect to be the player you were before. Your body won’t let you. It’s not just the games themselves. It’s the practices, the travel, the mental focus that is required day after day. Michael hadn’t been through that kind of regimen since we defeated the Suns in the 1993 Finals, nearly two full years earlier. The rest of us had to make an adjustment, too. Mostly, the guys who had never played with him. Not just where to get him the ball or where to position themselves when he drove to the basket. To play with Michael meant adjusting to the attention he generated from fans, reporters, photographers, celebrities, you name it, which was, incredibly enough, more overwhelming than ever.”

“The first time I heard his name was during my junior year at Central Arkansas. He gave me hope. I realized I didn’t have to be at a big-time school to get drafted by the NBA. As long as one possessed the talent and dedication, the dream was still possible. Dennis Rodman, whose unlikely journey took him from a poor neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, to Southeastern Oklahoma State to, eventually, the Basketball Hall of Fame, had an abundance of both.”

“I came into the league a year after Dennis did. The two of us were rivals, then enemies. We hated the Bad Boys and they hated us. They hated everyone. Yet even while the Pistons kept beating the Bulls in the playoffs, I admired his ability to play defense and rebound. He knew where the ball was headed the moment it left the shooter’s hands and was able to wrestle rebounds away from players five inches taller and fifty pounds heavier. That didn’t happen by accident. He studied the tendencies of his opponents and teammates, planting himself in perfect rebounding position even before guys got into a shooting mode. Dennis possessed an unbelievable basketball IQ.”

“Believe me, I had no illusions of what this man was capable of. On or off the court. I was the guy he shoved out of bounds in Game 4 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, causing six stitches on my chin. That’s not something one tends to forget. Phil assured Michael and me that the team would be able to get rid of Dennis if he became too much of a distraction. That would be stated explicitly in the contract. Good to know. I didn’t see it ever getting that far. Not with Phil’s ability to handle a wide range of personalities, yours truly included. And not with veterans such as Michael and me, who would insist Dennis put in the work and be prepared to play night after night. On the other hand, I was realistic. We’re talking about Dennis freakin’ Rodman. The one, you know, with the strange hair colors and tattoos from practically head to toe. The one who took his shirt off after games and tossed it into the crowd. The one who dated Madonna. Anything was possible. Ask the San Antonio Spurs. They were dying to unload Dennis. He had been nothing but trouble from the moment they acquired him from the Pistons in the fall of 1993. I don’t know what the record was for fines and suspensions in a season. I got to believe he made a run at it.”

“Over the eight preseason games, Dennis received 5 technical fouls. I repeat: preseason. What was going to happen when the games started counting for real? As the days wore on, I was surprised at how reserved he was. There is Dennis Rodman the spectacle, and Dennis Rodman the man, and the two are very different. Dennis kept to himself most of the time in training camp, working on his conditioning and his craft. He was often the first player to arrive at the gym and the last to leave. I never saw anyone else learn the triangle as fast as he did. Learn it? He mastered it.”

“The loss to the Magic made him angry. It’s not generally a good idea to make Michael Jordan angry. Perhaps he also realized, after being away from the game for twenty-one months, how fortunate he truly was, and that this blessed career of his wouldn’t last forever. Whatever time he might have left, he would make the most of it. He was thirty-two years old. That’s getting up there for a basketball player. While in Los Angeles the summer before to shoot Space Jam, Michael worked out with other NBA players in a gym the studio built specifically for him.”

“We took care of business, 86–80, Michael leading the way with 22 points and 9 rebounds. A work of art? Hardly. So what? The record was ours. We finished the season at 72-10. The previous record had belonged to the ’71–72 Lakers at 69–13. I’m proud of what we achieved. Though winning 70 games was not something we constantly dwelled on. Look what happened to the Golden State Warriors during the 2015–16 season. They went 73-9 and then lost in the Finals to LeBron and the Cavaliers. The Warriors spent too much energy on breaking our record.”

“The folks putting the ’96 squad together kept after me, explaining how the younger guys could benefit from my leadership. In the end, I couldn’t say no. Thank God I didn’t. No, playing in Atlanta didn’t match Barcelona. Still, the experience was rewarding in a whole different manner. I was one of the team’s elder statesmen, as Larry and Magic were in 1992. Players such as Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway looked up to me. I was glad to help show them the way. I’ve always believed it is the responsibility of every veteran player to look out for the next generation, to leave the game in a better place.”

“In the gold medal game against Yugoslavia, our lead with fourteen minutes to go was 1 point. One point! Team Yugoslavia had plenty of outstanding players, including Vlade Divac. That was no excuse. Fortunately, with Vlade having fouled out, they had no one to stop us in the paint, leading to one dunk after another. We won going away, 95–69. David Robinson was the leading scorer with 28 points, while Reggie Miller added 20, including 3 three-pointers. Standing on the podium with my teammates, listening to the national anthem, I was as moved as I was the first time. If I had been a part of ten Dream Teams, the feeling would have always been the same. Celebrating on American soil, seeing everyone in red, white, and blue, made it even more special.”

“Bingo! We went up 3, and won the game, 90–88. In forty-four minutes, Michael finished with 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Many in the press ranked it as his greatest performance ever, given what was at stake and the condition he was in. I don’t necessarily disagree. However, I have a problem with how Michael was made out to be some kind of superhuman. We are professional athletes who get paid an incredible amount of money. We are supposed to perform at no less than 100 percent.”

“Here we go again. Everyone expecting Michael to take the last shot. Everyone except Michael, who had a feeling the Jazz might double-team him. He told Steve Kerr to be ready. The Jazz doubled him, all right, with Stockton coming over to help out. Michael drove toward the hoop and then threw the ball to Steve, who let it go from 17 feet. Swish. I was thrilled for Steve, and to again see a member of the “supporting cast” come through in the clutch. We were a team. That’s what made us great, and the point can’t be emphasized enough.”

“There was enough uncertainty in those days without having to deal with his act. I’m referring to the future of the whole team, which was more up in the air than ever. That’s always the case in the NBA. Players move around so frequently, it’s almost impossible to keep track. This was different. This wasn’t just the prospect of one or two players being traded or signing with another team. The sense as the months dragged on was that much of our core group, and our head coach, might very well go their separate ways when the season ended. Whether there was another gathering in Grant Park or not. Every day brought further speculation: Would Michael come back? Would Phil? Would Dennis? Would I? In any case, I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I had a wedding to attend. My own.”

“Phil would be allowed to coach for another season but that would be it. That’s when Jerry Krause told him he could go 82-0 and it wouldn’t make any difference. Jerry used to constantly claim there was a better coach out there than Phil. There wasn’t a better coach out there, and that definitely included Tim Floyd, the Iowa State coach, whom Jerry was grooming for the job. He wanted to find a coach he could control, someone who would be loyal to him. Simple as that.”

“I did a lot of thinking in those first weeks after the surgery. Of how fortunate I was to be part of a dynasty that won five championships in seven years and how sad it was our time together would soon be coming to an end. And how, when the right opportunity presented itself, I would express my appreciation to the people of Chicago, many of whom stuck by me during some difficult days. It came at the United Center on the night of November 1. Ring night. Addressing the crowd in street clothes, I found myself getting choked up: “Thank you for all the wonderful moments that the fans in this city have shown me and my teammates for ten long seasons. I’ve had a wonderful career here, and if I never have the opportunity to say this again, thank you.” I meant every word.”

“Beginning in mid-December, the Bulls won 8 in a row to reach a record of 20-9, best in the East. In 6 of the 8, we held our opponent to 92 or fewer points. A lot of the credit went to Dennis. Without me around, he embraced the opportunity to be the No. 2 guy to Michael. In back-to-back games versus the Hawks and the Mavericks, Dennis pulled down a total of 56 rebounds, and in the month of December, he had at least 15 rebounds on eight different occasions (five games of 20 or more). Meanwhile, as we rang in the New Year, one thing was becoming increasingly clear: I wasn’t going anywhere. Believe it or not, I was okay with that. I’d had some time to cool off since the episode on the bus in Seattle. I missed playing with the guys. I missed the magic we created when everyone was on the same page. Asking for a trade never had anything to do with them.”

“Harp, Michael, and I came up with the idea during a Breakfast Club workout. We mentioned it to Phil, who was on board 100 percent. Phil was always open to suggestions from his players, which we greatly appreciated. Not every coach is like that. If the idea came from us, Phil knew we would be committed to making it work.”

“If the game itself didn’t any provide any drama, what took place the next day off the court made up for it. Thanks to Dennis. Who else could it be? First, he skipped a team meeting and a mandatory media session. The Bulls fined him $10,000 for missing the meeting. The league fined him the same amount for blowing off the media. Then he had the audacity to fly to Detroit to appear on a cable-TV wrestling show with Hulk Hogan… in the middle of the NBA Finals. Dennis was at practice the next day. In Game 4, which we won, 86–82, he finished with 14 rebounds and 6 points, including two critical free throws to give us a 4-point lead with 43.8 seconds left. That was Dennis Rodman in a nutshell. One day, he acts like someone who should be committed. The next, he chases down every loose ball as if the future of mankind depended on it. Who were any of us to question the man’s, shall I say, eccentricities? Maybe Dennis needed those other outlets to be at his best on the basketball court.”

“Michael was headed to his second retirement. Who knew, one day, there would be a third. In the meantime, he would play more golf and film more commercials. And be Michael Jordan, a full-time job in itself.”

“Before the season got under way, Tim Grover, Michael’s trainer, came to town to work out with Charles and me. Charles didn’t last one week. Michael could get away with playing golf and a hectic lifestyle. Charles could not. Something had to give, and that was basketball. He was a lot like Shaq. As great as he was, he should have been greater.”

“The organization was another matter entirely. It didn’t deserve this. By the organization, I’m referring to the ticket sellers, the security officials, the maintenance workers, the PR guys, etc., etc. Everyone I ran into told me the same thing: “It certainly ain’t what it used to be.”

“We’d held a team meeting earlier that day, where I spoke longer than anyone else. That was the reason they brought me here, to teach the kids how to behave like professionals. I backed Bill 100 percent, and not because he was my friend. Because he was my coach. He had a right to play whomever he wanted. Afterward, everyone appeared to be on the same page.”

“Now what? One possibility was coaching. Working with the young players in Chicago, I realized I still had a lot to give to the game I loved. The game that changed my life. The game that gave me everything. I knew how to draw up plays and set defenses. I knew how to put the right people in the right positions. I knew how to motivate a group of individuals to act as one. Another possibility was to work for the Bulls in some capacity. Despite how things ended with management, I was still a member of six championship teams, and no one could ever take that away from me. I fell in love with the city in the summer of 1986 when I went to visit my sister and played hoops on Lake Shore Drive with Dwyane Wade’s father. I never fell out of love. Anyway, after the sacrifices I’d made to get to the NBA, and stay there, I was in no rush to figure out the next move. I had a family to raise. With the arrival of another son, Justin, in 2005, there were five of us now. A new team to nurture.”

“The hard work didn’t start with me. Heavens, no. The hard work started with Ethel Pippen. I saw the effort Mom made every day with my brother, my father—with all of us. There was no limit to the amount of love in that woman’s heart. She passed away in February of 2016 at the age of ninety-two. I miss her more than words can possibly describe.”

“I played this game that I love so much, and everything I had, I laid it out there,” I told the audience. “I’ve also tried to live my life in the way that will make the people I love and care about proud of me…. I have been able to live my dream of playing basketball surrounded by people I love and being cheered on by the best fans in the world. It was a great ride.”

“This was in the fall of 2005. I worked with the players on different aspects of the triangle. I enjoyed the experience immensely. Working with Kobe was a special thrill. For years, from a distance, I had observed his growth both as a player and a man. To watch him up close, on and off the court, I was even more impressed. His death in late January of 2020 hit me hard.”

“Instead, I was able to lead a different group of youngsters, my kids. I couldn’t be prouder of them. They include Antron, Taylor, Sierra, Scotty Jr., Preston, Justin, and Sophia. I think about Antron every day. He passed away a few months ago from complications related to asthma. He was only thirty-three.”

“Antron was one of my best friends. The courage he displayed in dealing with his health problems reminded me a lot of my brother Ronnie. He never saw himself as a victim. I will forever wonder what amazing things he would have accomplished. Speaking of amazing things, I’m excited about the future for Scotty Jr., twenty-one, the eldest of the four children I had with Larsa. He is quite a player in his own right.”

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Purpose: I create an empowering context for curious and hungry people looking for fulfillment, experiences, and creativity. We do this by developing their growth mindset, introducing self-love, and powerful group experiences. It results in people with strong boundaries, resilient mental health, and practical life skills

People leave with the ability to land their dream job, have autonomy and flexibility with their lifestyle, travel the world, and create from their heart and soul.


Davidson was once broke, insecure, low-confidence, and frustrated by doing all the wrong activities. Addicted to drugs, validation, and wallowing in self-pity. No relationship to family, and at the mercy of other people’s suggestions and opinions.

It was hell.

After spending $100k hiring different coaches, traveling the world doing workshops around the world, reading>1000 books, and through curiosity, have created the most effective system to remove people from that situation. My life’s work is to bring joy and abundance to people who as on a similar path as I was and bring back the joy and abundance of their life.

Through shared experiences and storytelling, I inspire and model behaviors that lead to a richer, more fulfilled life full of joy, experiences, passion, and ecstasy from the richness of relationships and being able to experience the depths of the human experience.

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