Scottie Pippen Confirms: MJ's '92 Finals Benching Omitted from 'The Last Dance'

Winter's crucial intervention reshapes Bulls' strategy in finals.

by Nouman Rasool
Scottie Pippen Confirms: MJ's '92 Finals Benching Omitted from 'The Last Dance'
© Matt King/Getty Images

In the pantheon of Chicago Bulls' 90s dominance, the spotlight often shone brightest on Michael Jordan, the icon whose unparalleled skills led the team to six NBA championships. Yet, the 1992 NBA Finals' Game 6 painted a slightly different picture, one that saw Jordan, astonishingly, on the sidelines during a pivotal moment of the series.

This exceptional decision, as Scottie Pippen reveals in his memoir "Unguarded," stemmed from a bold suggestion by assistant coach Tex Winter. Winter, growing weary of Jordan's solo efforts, which seemed to jeopardize the team's fluidity, convinced head coach Phil Jackson to make the daring move to bench MJ.

This strategy was pivotal in changing the game's dynamics.

Game 6 Turnaround

Despite the Bulls' commanding 3-2 series lead, their grip on Game 6 wavered as they trailed by 15 points entering the fourth quarter. The Portland Trail Blazers appeared poised to push the series to a decisive seventh game.

It was at this juncture that Winter intervened, critiquing Jordan's monopolization of the ball and urging Jackson for a team-centric approach. Jordan, who had been trying to single-handedly steer the comeback, was benched, leading to a remarkable 14-2 run by the Bulls without him.

Upon his return, the Bulls had narrowed the gap to just three points, eventually securing a 97-93 victory and the championship, outscoring the Blazers 33-14 in the final quarter. Curiously, this critical moment received scant attention in the much-acclaimed documentary "The Last Dance," which focused on Jordan's exploits during the Bulls' era of dominance.

Pippen suggests that the documentary's oversight of Game 6's narrative, influenced by Jordan's editorial control, was a missed opportunity to highlight the collective effort in the Bulls' success. Pippen, along with fellow teammates Horace Grant and Luc Longley, feels that "The Last Dance" disproportionately celebrated Jordan's contributions, overshadowing the essential roles played by the team's ensemble.

This sentiment has motivated them to share their insights, offering an alternative perspective on the Bulls' legacy, underscoring the importance of teamwork and strategy over individual brilliance.