Pippen on Ben Simmons: ‘I think he is who he is’

Ben Simmons | USA Today images

His NBA career may be squarely in the rearview mirror, but Hall of Fame forward Scottie Pippen still has plenty to say.

The basketball legend recently covered a myriad of topics in a sit-down with GQ Magazine. Pippen, now 55, talked about his playing days, the Kevin DurantLeBron James debate and also the Sixers’ situation with Ben Simmons.

The introspective, drama-filled and insightful interview is documented in full by Tyler R. Tynes. Here are some of the highlights from it.

On playing with Michael Jordan

In Scottie Pippen’s upcoming book Unguarded, he goes into great detail about his career with the Chicago Bulls and how the dynamic of the team truly was. From his perspective, he elaborates on his relationship with Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and much more. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit was how Pippen felt about the media and fans referring to him as Jordan’s “sidekick.”

“That was the public perspective. That ain’t Michael’s fault. He wasn’t writing the articles. But it was the cheerleaders that were behind Michael Jordan that were doing whatever they can to appease him, to get his vote. [Laughs.] They felt they could get close to him.”

Pippen also alluded to how he could have earned more money throughout his career had he been on another team or been the No. 1 option elsewhere. Six rings and several million dollars later, though, he seems to be satisfied with how things unfolded.

On Durant versus James

No matter how you slice it, Kevin Durant and LeBron James are two of the greatest players of this generation. Additionally, they will retire as two of the greatest players to ever set foot on an NBA court. Naturally, the two have been compared throughout their careers on numerous occasions.

James’ name is thrown around in Greatest of All-Time conversations, while Durant has occasionally been dubbed the league’s best current player (ahead of James). The latter talks began swirling around this postseason but after the Nets were jettisoned from the postseason by the Bucks, Scottie Pippen added his personal take.

“KD can score better than LeBron, probably always have been able to. But has he surpassed LeBron? Naw. He tried to beat the Milwaukee Bucks instead of utilizing his team. You see what I’m saying? LeBron James would’ve figured out how to beat them and he wouldn’t have been exhausted and he may not have taken the last shot. But LeBron ain’t KD, and KD ain’t LeBron. KD is a shooter, a scorer. But he doesn’t have what LeBron has.”

Pippen’s viewpoint is one commonly held in modern basketball discourse. Both James and Durant are legends in their own respective rights, but many hold “King James” to the highest possible standard because of his ability to do a little bit of everything. Only time will tell who will rank higher on hypothetical lists.

On Ben Simmons’ struggles

Despite having two of the best players in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers weren’t able to defeat the Hawks and advance to the Conference Finals. Ben Simmons was a large reason why, as his lack of fourth-quarter scoring and overall woes at the free-throw line held both him and the team back.

In addition to explaining how some of Simmons’ failures should reflect upon head coach Doc Rivers‘ in-game decisions, Scottie Pippen urged everyone to keep in mind that Simmons has had the same flaws for years.

“You guys have been looking at Ben Simmons for five years now? And you can say this to Stephen A. Smith, too: Y’all know he can’t shoot. Y’all know he don’t look to shoot in the fourth quarter. You know he’s afraid to go to the foul line, he don’t wanna be humiliated, so what are you asking me? I’m not against Ben Simmons. But I think he is who he is.”

Pippen’s comments, in totality, were brutally honest and contained a great deal of sincerity. His full interview with GQ is certainly worth the read. Not only did he dive into his own career, but provided commentary on some of the NBA’s most pressing storylines.

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