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Pippen announces retirement

Scottie Pippen played the sidekick to basketball’s greatest star, creating a partnership the Chicago Bulls parlayed into an NBA dynasty with six titles in the 1990s.

Pippen’s career came to an end yesterday as he announced his retirement following 17 years in he league. He made the announcement standing in front of the six championship trophies he helped the Bulls win.

“As I stand here and as I look back, I don’t think Michael (Jordan) had any championship trophies without me,” Pippen said of a basketball relationship that was mutually beneficial.

Jordan already was a star when Pippen arrived in 1987. Four seasons later, they brought the Bulls their first title.

“It was a taste for us we had never had before,” Pippen said, looking back on the five-game victory over the Lakers.

There were two “three-peat” championships interrupted by Jordan’s unsuccessful foray into baseball and a 72-10 regular season that may never be surpassed.

“He was playing with the best of all time,” Bulls coach Scott Skills said. “I don’t know, maybe Michael wouldn’t have gotten them without Scottie, either. You could make a case for that, for sure.”

Pippen, 39, chosen one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996 for the league’s 50th anniversary, was known for his all-around play — especially his long-armed defense at 6-foot-7 against some of the league’s best scorers. The seven-time All-Star directed the Bulls’ famed triangle offense with his ballhandling skills.

“Michael was here seven years before they started winning championships,” said former Bull Bill Wennington.

“What was the problem? He needed someone who agreed that you needed to go up the court and work your backside off to get it done. And Scottie was that guy who came in and said, ‘Yeah I will do that and you know what? If I’m the second man, that’s OK.”‘

After 11 years with the Bulls, Pippen left after the 1999 lockout and played one year in Houston and four more in Portland.

Looking for some leadership, the Bulls brought Pippen back last season to work with their young team. But he had knee surgery in December and played in only 23 games as the Bulls went 23-59.

It was the first time in his career Pippen missed the playoffs. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 237 has played in more postseason games than Pippen (208).

Pippen finished his career with a 16.1 scoring average to go with 6.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists. He said one of his biggest thrills was being a member of the first “Dream Team” that won the gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic.

Pippen said his various injuries have left him unable to play a full season. Still, the Bulls will pay him the $5 million remaining on his two-year contract this season, general manager and former teammate John Paxson said.

“After 17 years, I got all the basketball out of me I possibly could,” Pippen said.

And unlike Jordan, who made two comebacks after retiring, Pippen promised he’s finished.

“There won’t be any return for me,” he added.

While Pippen was being heralded yesterday as a consummate teammate, there was one selfish episode during Jordan’s one full season away from the game that will always be remembered.

Unhappy when a final shot was called for Toni Kukoc instead of him, Pippen sat out the final 1.8 seconds of Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals. Kukoc made the shot to win the game but the Bulls lost the series.

And the 1997-98 season had barely started when Pippen, recovering from foot surgery and unhappy with his contract, demanded a trade. He eventually returned, but his bitterness with then-general manager Jerry Krause festered.

Krause, who acquired Pippen’s rights in a draft day deal for Olden Polynice in 1987 that turned out to be one of the team’s best-ever transactions, has his own banner hanging from the rafters at the United Center.

Next season, the Bulls plan to retire Pippen’s No. 33.

Pippen plans to stick around Chicago and be a volunteer coach of sorts, working with some of the Bulls’ younger players during training camp.

“I’ve done all I could as a player,” Pippen said on how he would be remembered. “I kind of leave that up the fans and individuals to judge me on how I was as a player and a person.”

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