“Batman and Robin” is an age-old sports cliché that fans love to throw around, especially in the world of basketball. Whenever a team would have a dynamic duo which was the bane of every opponent they faced, they would easily be branded this monicker. The superstar who scores the most points in a team is the Batman while the second star who acts as the sidekick is the Robin.
When I was younger, I always wanted to be Batman. I mean, who didn’t, right? He was this super badass fictional hero that every kid looked up to and aspired to be. In every way and form, Batman was the man.
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only kid who wanted to be like him, to be as awesome as Batman, always looming large and in-charge, striking fear into the hears of his enemies. But I’m not sure if the same can be said about Robin. Who, as a kid growing up, wanted to be like Robin? Second fiddle to the main guy, a side-kick to the action, a passenger on the side-car of the Bat-cycle? Yet if you think about it, for a superhero as mortal and as human as Bruce Wayne and Batman was, having a Robin around was absolutely necessary.
While there are misfits and misguided critics on how an NBA superstar should cement his legacy, the reality is Batman always needed Robin to fight off the worst villains of his rogue’s gallery. Heroes, even the mightiest of them, needed help overcoming the most difficult of trials, and the same goes for our sports heroes. LeBron James needed Dwayne Wade and the Heatles to finally get his first championship. The late great Kobe Bryant needed Pau Gasol to finally prove that he can be the man on a championship team. That a superstar had a Robin to help him achieve greatness does not and should not diminish his own greatness. And being a Robin, does not diminish a player’s own greatness either.
Even the Greatest Player of All Time, Michael Jordan, needed a partner in order to win. He needed the Robin to his Batman. And he found one in Scottie Pippen.
The second episode of the highly anticipated ’97-’98 Chicago Bulls documentary, “The Last Dance”, highlighted the often overlooked brilliance and importance of Scottie Pippen to the team and especially to Michael Jordan. It centered around his rough early days before entering the league and the surprising controversy that surrounded him during the ’98 season of the Bulls.
Coming from a struggling family of 12, he first became an equipment manager of his college team before finally convincing his coach to give him a basketball scholarship. All of this led up to him becoming one of the game’s best two-way players the NBA has ever seen.
He was the perfect complement to Jordan. He did not need the ball to be effective. He made timely cuts, he could shoot from the outside, he could post-up, he could make excellent passes and he could defend like crazy. He and Jordan blended beautifully in the triangle offense.
Individually, he was already a beast on the hardwood floor. But most importantly, he elevated Jordan to greater heights.
This is the beauty of the second episode. It reminded us that there is more to the luster of the Bulls than Jordan himself. It allowed us to see MJ, that as great as he is, as a mortal, vulnerable force. Heck, he scored 49 points and 63 points in back-to-back playoff games against the Celtics and still lost both contests.
It painted MJ as a breath-taking scoring monster who could deliver big-time playoff performances but clearly lacked the help in order to get over the hump. And the arrival of Scottie changed all that.
“When everybody says, well, I won all these championships. But I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen. That’s why I consider him my best teammate of all time”, Jordan said about Pippen.
True enough, it was Scottie’s presence that catapulted Michael. His equally competitive spirit and basketball genius drove MJ to be the best he ever was and resulted in six championships together in Chicago. He was as important to the Bulls’ success as Michael was.
Scottie’s seven-year, $18 Million deal was a grim encapsulation to how was an underrated star during his whole career. His individual greatness and basketball brilliance has been mostly overlooked by us sports fans the same way the Bulls front office grossly belittled Pippen’s value by not giving him his dues.
While I like to view The Last Dance as a holy reminder to us basketball fans that Michael Jordan is the G.O.A.T. for a reason and that his Chicago Bulls is the greatest team ever, it is much more than that. It is a deeper dive into the human aspect of this seemingly untouchable team, and in the process, it opened our eyes to the undeniable fact that as brilliant and Godly Michael Jordan was, he was only human and could not do it alone.
”Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen.”