As a long term Indiana Pacer fan, I’ve never been that fond of Pippen and Jordan.  For example, in the Bulls record breaking 95-96 season they only had 10 losses for the year and 2 were to the Pacers.  Only a serious Pacer fan would know that.  But there is something in that symbiotic relationship/mentoring that is wildly appealing.

jordan pippen2Jordan had been in the league 3 years before Pippen arrived.  He was hungry for more success especially over the physical Pistons.  Horace Grant, a power forward, was added to the Bulls team the same year and you would think that he would be the focus of Jordan’s hope.  But he wasn’t.  Jordan chose the lanky, finesse player to mentor.

“Everyone who knew the Bulls, knew that Pippen’s early years with Jordan weren’t the easiest. They were dead tough because Jordan had taken Pippen under his wing, because Jordan saw the potential that Pippen had, and he knew that Pippen could be the missing key in his championship dreams. And remember this – Jordan had been winless in three playoff seasons till the Bulls finally cleared the bump in the 1988 playoffs. Which means that Jordan was angry and seething at everybody else because while he had extraordinary talent (and the numbers too), he had no one of considerable substance to rely upon. That is what Jordan did to Pippen – he made him a fighter, a warrior, a player who just wouldn’t give up.”

– From Bleacher Report

As a Pacer fan with season tickets at the time, I wasn’t scared of Pippen in the least.  He seemed weak compared to the brute force of the Pistons and the talent of Mr. Jordan.  Over the years, and through innumerous tough practices with Jordan in his ear, Pippen became a great player.  I was sitting in the cheap seats in Market Square Arena on February 18, 1996 when Jordan scored 44 points, Pippen had 40 points and Rodman had 20 rebounds.  (For the record, Miller and Rose each scored 40 points in 2000.)

The mentoring and closeness of Pippen and Jordan was seen off the court as well.

‘”We are very close,” Jordan said. “Much closer than most people even know. He comes over to my house and the two of us work out together.” Which, to those who are familiar with Jordan’s ways, says quite a bit. His home has always been, if not off-limits to his teammates, then a place that everyone understood was reserved for the tiny part of his life that Jordan can call private–a place that teammates did not routinely drop by. Most never saw the inside of it. “I like having Scottie with me at the house,” he said. “We work out and talk, and he tells me all kinds of things. A lot of personal things. Scottie’s a very thoughtful guy, if he trusts you, and I think we really trust each other.”‘

 – From a Tribune article in 1996

jordan:pippenPeople talk about having a mentor or attaching yourself to someone you want to be, all the time.  I don’t think most of us know how to be mentored or how to find a mentor.  Being a mentor means that you have to take advice from someone.  You have to open yourself up to tough conversations about your weaknesses or areas of improvement.  That’s not easy.

Secondly how do you find a mentor?  All of us would like to be associated with the top person in our field but they are difficult to find.  A renown expert in likely busy beyond your imagination.  They have big projects and big dreams that they are devoting time toward.    So what can you do?

Find someone within your friend group or a friend of a friend to mentor you.  Check to see if both of you have the ability and desire to work together.  There have been several people in my life that I wanted to mentor me but they were unwilling.  It was never a statement that told me that they wouldn’t be my mentor, it was always busy silence.  It’s not easy to find this person for you, but you need them.  You need someone to push you, to speak honestly to you, to make you better than you would be without them.

Most relationships in our lives are trivial, superficial and easily forgotten.  Build something more, build a genuine relationship.

“The relationship Jordan and Pippen share isn’t one that involves a lot of day-to-day dialogue. But when they do see each other, it’s like that old friend who you can reconnect with immediately, regardless of whether it has been months or years since the last contact.  “Michael and I spent so much time together as players that we never focused on spending time together away from the game,” said Pippen. “But our relationship is still very solid. It’s strong and it’s genuine. I’m happy to see him doing well in life and that he’s healthy. We’re still friends and when we see each other, it’s easy to look back and appreciate our time together.””

– From NBA.com at Jordan’s 50th birthday in 2013

Written by Ron Cloer