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It’s been 25 years since the last Chicago Bulls’ championship but Scottie Pippen and Luc Longley are still teammates at heart.
The NBL and Pippen’s former Bulls big man Longley invited him to Australia as a league ambassador for the start of the new season, which tipped off on Thursday night, and the two teammates made the most of their first meeting in a decade after Pippen’s arrival.
Former Chicago Bulls Luc Longley and Scottie Pippen walk along the Yarra River on Thursday.Credit: Getty Images
Longley said the pair kept in touch via FaceTime and he was eager to bring Pippen out for his first visit to Australia, with Pippen just as eager to embrace a visit to Longley’s home country.
Pippen playfully talked up his mate as the reason their superstar teammate Michael Jordan came out of basketball retirement in 1995 to rejoin the Bulls, where they would win three more championships.
“He [Jordan] did leave for two years and then he realised I had generated one of the greatest Australians of all-time, so he ran his ass back out there,” Pippen said with a laugh.
When Pippen repeated the line to Longley, he added “I was the only Australian ever at that point.”
Pippen and Longley have remained in contact since Longley came home to Australia following his years in the NBA and this meeting was their first, in person, in 10 years since Longley took his kids to Chicago.
The pair drew admirers of all ages as they posed for pictures along the Yarra River on Thursday afternoon and at the NBL game that night, while Longley marvelled at how fit Pippen, 58, still was.
“It’s amazing how good a nick he keeps himself in,” Longley said.
“I think it’s great the NBL has taken this initiative to bring him out and he’s already excited about it and into it.
“Any time you walk that far down memory lane, you get all these good memories and at lunch today we were laughing about all the crazy shit we used to do. It was good fun and we are going to do more of that this week.
Longley and Pippen have reunited for the first time in 10 years, in Melbourne.Credit: Getty Images
“He’s going to the AFL and NRL grand finals and going on a couple of cruises [with paying fans]. It’s almost like a holiday and I hope he comes away thinking that’s a place I want to hang out – that was a good time.”
Pippen had to ask Longley who they would be cheering for in the AFL grand final, with Longley making it clear their allegiance would be with “Brisbane Lions, mate”.
When pressed on his first impression of Longley, Pippen was again playful.
“He was playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves,” Pippen said.
“I was schooling them,” Longley interjected.
“I said they can keep his ass over there,” Pippen said with a laugh.
Pippen wasn’t surprised to see fans of all ages are still interested in the Bulls era and his years with Michael Jordan, something that is repeatedly revisited by The Last Dance documentary series, social media videos, and the NBA 2K video game series, which still features the 1990s Bulls teams.
“It’s a different thing with social media, NBA TV and NBA 2K – a lot of those things keep you relevant, so I’m not surprised,” Pippen said.
Pippen and Longley courtside for the NBL season-opener between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix.Credit: Getty Images
“I’ve been living in this moment for a long time, I understand that there are a lot of pieces and technology and things of that nature keeping me relevant to this younger generation.”
The modern NBA looks like a different game to Pippen when compared to the more physical 1990s game, but he still keeps a watch on parts of the league with his son Scotty Pippen jnr playing his first professional season last season when he signed as a two-way player with the LA Lakers and split time between the G League and NBA team.
This campaign, he’s signed an exhibit-10 deal with the Lakers, it’s a non-guaranteed deal but will keep him with the team for preseason.
“I’d like to see him on a team and comfortable – it’s been an uphill battle for him,” Pippen said.
“But that’s the journey of the NBA and I think it will work out for him.”
Pippen hasn’t seen many Oklahoma City Thunder games but what he has seen of emerging Australian star Josh Giddey has impressed him.
“He sees the floor well, he’s a passer but I’m not a true Oklahoma City fan so I don’t get the chance to see him play much, but I do think he is the epitome of what basketball is,” Pippen said.
“He’s a guy that understands team, is a willing passer and has a great head for the game.”
Pippen still takes pride in being part of the original Dream Team, which took NBA basketball to the world at the 1992 Olympics.
“The impact was amazing and I’m very happy I was a part of that trailblazing team that really gave hope to a lot of young men and women around the world,” Pippen said.
“That was truly a moment for other teams to wake up and see how far America was from them, looking back, a lot of them did.”
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