He once was a man to be pitied. Never mind that he could jump out of the arena and shoot the basketball from the Sears Tower and play defense like a madman. The star that shined on Scottie Pippen was always an unlucky star.
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls is the NBA's marquee player. No question. But it wasn't until this season that it was fair to say that Pippen, a superstar in the making, no longer played in Jordan's shadow.
Pippen leads the Bulls in rebounds, steals and minutes played. He is second to Jordan in scoring, assists and endorsements.
"Playing with a guy like Michael, you have to take a lot of pride in what you're doing," Pippen said. "You don't want to fall that far behind. Even though you know you have to take a backseat to him, you always want to be a competitive player."
But after Sunday's 93-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Pippen's past came back to haunt him. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is tonight at Chicago Stadium.
Pippen, averaging 21.8 points and shooting 51 percent from the floor in the playoffs, scored 19 points in the game. He grabbed seven rebounds and made five assists, and was the only Chicago player outside of Jordan to score in double figures.
But he was 7-of-19 from the floor and limited his effectiveness on defense when he picked up two quick fouls in the fourth quarter and finished the game with five personals.
Incidents like those had kept some from embracing Pippen with unabashed enthusiasm. His play had been remarkable of late, helping put to rest his unfortunate disappearing acts in Game 7 of the 1989 and 1990 Eastern Conference finals because of questionable and unfortunate injuries.
Jordan, who picked up the slack with 36 points Sunday, saw a Pippen he was not used to seeing _ at least not this year.
"Scottie seemed to be a little nervous," Jordan said. "He was trying to get himself into a good rhythm and couldn't. So I felt my place was to step up and relieve the tension. I changed my scheme and became more offensively assertive."
Pippen believes too much has been made of his inaugural performance in the finals.
"I wasn't nervous," Pippen said Tuesday. "I guess I came out and tried to do too much too fast.
"My game plan was basically to come out and be aggressive offensively. I was disappointed in the way I shot the ball. I thought a lot of the shots that I took should have gone down.
"But that's part of the game. You just have to put that aside and bounce back and come ready to play a better game the next time."
Pippen has traveled this path before, fueled by indecision and self-doubt.
A Bill Laimbeer elbow knocked him out of the final game of the Eastern Conference final two years ago. His migraine was a big headache for the Bulls in the final game of the conference final last season.
"It's something that will be held over my head for a while," Pippen said. "Even if the Bulls come up and win the championship, it's going to be there."
One of the top forwards in the league, Pippen was overmatched against the Lakers' James Worthy. And Worthy is playing on a badly sprained left ankle that limits his movement.
"I wasn't keeping up on my fouls and I got into trouble. That did hurt me a lot. As a player, I want to be on the court," Pippen said.
"I think I have to get something going to the basket. Layups, dunks, whatever. It's going to be tough. The Lakers are a team that really shields the basket off real well. They run back in transition on defense and really block the lane."
Pippen, the fifth player selected in the 1987 draft, showed promise his rookie season. However, he developed a herniated disc in his back that required surgery. He missed training camp and the first eight games of the 1988-89 season. Still, he improved enough to earn a spot in the starting lineup. Last year he led the league in steals and made the All-Star team for the first time.
Pippen helped the Bulls become one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference the past two years. Chicago desperately needed someone other than Jordan to assert himself offensively. That player has been Pippen.
He scored 23 points, handed out 10 assists, grabbed six rebounds and had three steals in Game 4 of the conference finals against arch-nemesis Detroit. He scored his 1991 playoff high against Philadelphia (28 points). He has scored 20 or more points in all but three games during the post-season.
For Chicago to win, Jordan and Pippen both have to play well. It has always been difficult for the Bulls to win with only Jordan on top of his game.
"There's no panic for us," Pippen said. "It's only been one game, and it could have gone either way; one of us had to lose. We'll bounce back. There's no more pressure than usual."
What: Game 2 of NBA
Where: Lakers at Bulls.
When: Tonight at 9.
TV: Ch. 8.
Radio: WFNS-910 Tampa.
Series: Lakers lead 1-0.
Lakers lead series 1-0
Game 1: Lakers 93, Bulls 91
Game 2: Tonight, Lakers
at Bulls, 9 p.m.
Game 3: Friday, Bulls at
Lakers, 9 p.m.
Game 4: Sunday, Bulls at
Lakers, 7 p.m.
Game 5-x: June 12, Bulls at
Lakers, 9 p.m.
Game 6-x: June 14, Lakers at
Bulls, 9 p.m.
Game 7-x: June 16, Lakers at
Bulls, 7 p.m.