On Thursday's episode of 'First Take,' ESPN analysts Max Kellerman, Jay Williams, and Stephen A. Smith debated who was more important to Michael Jordan between Hall of Famers Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. When moderator Molly Qerim Rose kicked things off, Stephen A. Smith boldly stated, "It was Scottie Pippen, it was not Phil Jackson."
Smith argued that the Bulls were already on track to being a championship team with head coach Doug Collins at the helm. He continued that while the team made an obvious leap into a three-peating championship team with Jackson, Pippen's emergence as a bonafide NBA superstar is what played the biggest part in the Bulls becoming a dynasty with MJ.
"To me, it was the elevation of Scottie Pippen...the bravado, the swag, the toughness.
"There was something missing but with [Michael] Jordan, he ultimately elevated his level of toughness, he was a phenomenal defender and Scottie Pippen's elevation is what elevated the Chicago Bulls to the champions that they were."
The "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons of the 80s and 90s were the biggest impediment to the Bulls making the NBA Finals and when they finally broke through and eliminated the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, Pippen averaged an impressive 22 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game on 47.5% shooting.
Smith elaborated that Collins would have eventually broken through to the NBA Finals if he coached Pippen in the later stages of his development, which is why Pippen clearly is more important to MJ than Jackson. The nature of the Pippen-Jordan-Jackson relationship will definitely be shown in greater detail during 'The Last Dance' documentary and could bring Smith's words back to the forefront of the conversations about the 90s Bulls.
"Doug Collins to me, if that Scottie Pippen that was winning titles with Jordan, Doug Collins would have won the title if he would have coached at that particular moment and time."