Happy Birthday Scottie Pippen: A man who was much more than MJ's sidekick

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Today marks the 51st birthday of Scottie Pippen, one of the greatest forwards the game of basketball has ever seen.

Of course, the narrative about Pippen being forced to live in Michael Jordan's awe-inspiring shadow is well documented and borderline tiresome.

However, acknowledging the shade that Pippen has come to reside in and appreciating just how special the former Chicago Bulls man was, are two entirely different things.

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It's worth pointing out at this juncture that Pippen and Jordan had far from a turbulent or tempestuous relationship - quite the opposite. This was no Kobe and Shaq deal.

MJ isn't foolish enough to think what any casual basketball observer might deduce. His Airness wasn't an unstoppable force by himself; if it wasn't for Pippen and his superhuman defensive prowess, Jordan may never have ascended to the never-seen-before heights that he did.

The Bulls certainly wouldn't have won six championships in eight seasons were it not for the beautiful balance in their dynamic.

Upon Pippen's induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2010, Jordan told everybody just why his teammate was so special.

“I want to extend my congratulations and heartfelt best wishes to my teammate and friend, Scottie Pippen, on being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame,” said Jordan. “To go from being a college walk-on to first ballot Hall of Famer is an improbable journey and is a true testament to Scottie’s hard work.

"He may have been known as a defensive specialist, but he had a great all-around game and was a quiet and unselfish force on our Chicago Bulls teams, as well as on the Dream Team," said Jordan of Pippen.

In reality, if Pippen didn't have a low ego, quiet personality and the will to get his hands dirty for the good of the team, Jordan may not have flourished quite so spectacularly.

But, Jordan aside, Pippen's influence on a game of basketball stretched across all areas.

He was a six-time NBA champions, seven-time All-Star, three-time NBA First Team, eight-time All-Defensive First Team and the 1995 steals leader.

Not only that, but back in 1989-90, he became one of three players in NBA history to record 200 steals and 100 blocked shots in a single season.

The other two? Hakeem Olajuwon and - you guessed it - Michael Jordan.

The former Central Arkansas product was also the only player in history to win an NBA championship and Olympic gold medal in the same year twice. Kyrie Irving managed that feat for the first time this summer.

NBA legend Larry Bird recalled just what a fearsome duo Jordan and Pippen were on the defensive end in a statement that echoed the rest of the league's feelings.

“I enjoyed watching Michael and Scottie get up and put pressure on the ball," Bird recalled. "Michael would get on their point guard and defend the heck out of him. Then, he’d spin him and here comes Scottie—long, lanky and quick. Other teams got to the point where they were just tossing the ball over their head and everyone played centerfield with a chance to pick off their passes.”

At the height of the Pippen's powers, the small forward boasted averages of 22 points, 2.9 steals, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 7 assists a game.

Although Pippen will always be revered as an all-important ingredient to one of the greatest basketball sides ever assembled, let us not forget what a tremendous player the Bulls' No. 33 really was.

He might just be in the conversation as one of the greatest defenders of all-time.

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