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Original Issue


Just after his team had defeated the Utah Jazz in the opening
game of the NBA Finals on Sunday, Scottie Pippen stood at
midcourt in the United Center waiting for Michael Jordan to
finish an interview with NBC. While Jordan was recounting his
game-winning jumper over Bryon Russell, Pippen pumped his fists
and celebrated along with the crowd of cheering Chicago Bulls
fans. Only after Jordan was finished did Pippen step in front of
the camera.

For the better part of 10 years in Chicago, picking up four NBA
championship rings and two Olympic gold medals along the way,
Pippen has played the role of Jordan's sidekick. And though
Jordan's basket knocked another outstanding effort by Pippen out
of the headlines, Pippen's performance on Sunday certified that
he--as much as Jordan--has been the Bulls' MVP throughout the

Despite playing with a sore left foot that had him grimacing at
times and despite being distracted by trade rumors that last
week had him going to the Philadelphia 76ers, Pippen had 27
points, nine rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals
against Utah. The soft tissue injury to his left foot, which he
aggravated in the Eastern Conference-championship-clinching win
over the Miami Heat on May 28, forced him to miss three days of
practice last week, but he nevertheless played 43 minutes in
Game 1, two more minutes than Jordan played and 10 more than any
other Chicago player.

In many ways Pippen has been the Bulls' most consistent
performer this postseason, averaging 18.8 points, 6.1 rebounds
and 3.9 assists through Sunday while causing havoc on the
defensive end. It was Pippen who made the dunk that beat the
Washington Bullets in Game 3 of their first-round series, and it
was Pippen who shut down Heat forward Jamal Mashburn in the
Bulls' five-game series victory. "He has been unbelievable,"
says Chicago guard Steve Kerr. "He's hit some big shots. He
makes things easier on Michael."

Last year Pippen helped the Bulls to their fourth title in six
years while playing with a sore back, neck and foot, and last
week he spent hours undergoing treatment for his injured foot.
"During his therapy you could see he was in a lot of pain," says
Chicago forward Jud Buechler. "We had no idea before the game if
he could play at all, let alone as much as he did. But that's

Pippen has been similarly unaffected by the trade rumors. With
the possibility that Jordan and coach Phil Jackson might not be
back next season, Pippen could be dealt if Bulls management
embarks on a full-scale rebuilding plan. The latest report had
Pippen, who is making a relatively paltry $2.38 million this
season and has one year left on his contract, going to
Philadelphia for guard Jerry Stackhouse and the No. 2 overall
pick in the June 25 draft. "I've heard the report, but I'm not
thinking about that," says Pippen, who turns 32 in September.
"I'm just concentrating on winning a championship."

After Sunday's 84-82 victory he cracked up the media in the
interview room with a line straight out of Charles Barkley's
book. Asked if he had said anything to Jazz forward Karl Malone
before Malone missed two foul shots with 9.2 seconds left and
the score tied at 82, Pippen replied, "Not really. I just kind
of whispered in his ear that the Mailman doesn't deliver on

Later, as he glided down a United Center hallway looking relaxed
and refreshed, Pippen said he's secure with his game and his
place in NBA history. "I don't let the trade rumors or the
critics or anything bother me," he said. "I know who I am, and I
know what I can do."