Scotty Pippen Jr. is ready for the NBA, backed by his Hall of Fame father
21-year-old has gained a lifetime of experience as son of Chicago Bulls legend, who says: ‘I kind of let him pave his own way’
The NBA’s father-son club is an exclusive order that typically adds more accolades and members with each passing year.
The 2022 champion Golden State Warriors had four players whose fathers played in the NBA in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II. This past season, there were 29 players who appeared in at least one game whose fathers also played in the league. And if former Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr. gets selected in the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday, he and his father will join the club, too.
“It’s a fraternity. I think every NBA player’s son wants to play in the NBA,” Pippen Jr. told Andscape. “And it makes it even tougher when your dad played in the NBA, because people look at you a certain way and people judge you. So, just to be able to have this opportunity placed in front of me is just a dream come true. Something I’ve been thinking about even as a little kid.”
Former NBA star Scottie Pippen Sr., whose birth name is actually spelled “Scotty,” was named one of the NBA’s 75 greatest players this past season. The six-time NBA champion and seven-time All-Star played alongside legend Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls. Pippen Sr. was also a three-time All-NBA first-team selection and his No. 33 was retired by the Bulls.
Pippen Jr., 21, was too young back then to watch his dad play in the NBA. But the younger Pippen does fondly recall the love his father received when he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. Jordan presented Pippen that year and former NBA star Karl Malone was among the other inductees.
“He retired when I was 5, so I don’t really remember too much of his career,” Pippen Jr. said. “But I think the furthest back I remember was him going into the Hall of Fame in 2010. I was 10 years old. I was still young. But just always growing up, hearing about how good he was, going to the Bulls games as a kid, seeing how people treated him, how they loved him, those are the things I remember. As a kid seeing in our house pictures, like memorabilia he had, all that stuff kind of motivated me to play.”
“Kids always were going at me because the name, even to this day. That might be a positive and a negative because it gave me something to play for.”
Pippen Sr. said his son is certainly familiar with his game thanks to YouTube and other videos he has watched. The former NBA star said he also bestowed basketball knowledge on his receptive son during hours in the gym and countless conversations.
“He’s a student of the game as well,” Pippen Sr. said of his son. “He’s been able to be his own leader in a sense of really educating himself about the game. And there’s nothing better than life experience, putting yourself in different situations.
“His career has allowed him to see the game from a lot of different angles, whether he was playing with players that are better than him or whether he was on the floor as the best player on the court. So, all those things play a role in your learning and developing of the game of basketball.”
Pippen Jr. will probably never be able to move out of his dad’s spotlight due to his success on the hardwood and such a unique last name. The Pippen name certainly generated expectations, challenges and trash talk from fans watching him play from his youth to Pine Crest School in Florida to Sierra Canyon School in California to Vanderbilt University. He is also 5 inches shorter than the 17-year NBA veteran.
“Kids always were going at me because the name, even to this day,” Pippen Jr. said. “That might be a positive and a negative because it gave me something to play for. It gave me motivation to go out there and perform just because everyone knew who I was, and everyone wanted to see me play.”
Pippen Sr. felt it was best to let his son deal with the pressures of their name.
“I kind of let him pave his own way,” Pippen Sr. said. “When you’re competitive, then that fire will burn within you. His approach to the game has been as good as it gets. He has an even keel, he understands the game, and I don’t have to tell him that these guys in the gym are going to be coming at you. He already understands that if his dad goes in the gym, that everyone wants to know who his son is, and things of that nature.
“So, it’s about preparation, really, for him throughout life. You prepare yourself for the game and you can meet any challenges that you run into.”
The 2022 draft includes four sons of former NBA players — Pippen Jr., Rutgers forward Ron Harper Jr., former LSU forward Shareef O’Neal, whose father is Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, and Colorado forward Jabari Walker, son of Samaki Walker. While it was certainly a challenge for all three to live up to their fathers’ names on the basketball court, Pippen Jr. has represented well so far.
Pippen Jr. averaged 16.3 points, 4.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds during his senior year at Sierra Canyon and helped the team win the 2019 California Interscholastic Federation Open Division state title. The two-time All-SEC selection averaged 20.4 points, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals with Vanderbilt as a junior last season. Pippen Jr. also led the Commodores to the 2022 National Invitation Tournament.
Pippen Sr. was a regular at not only his high school games but also at Vanderbilt.
“It’s been a great journey seeing the game from a parenting standpoint, and standing back and really observing, and sort of watching and learning and looking,” Pippen Sr. said. “Every day can’t be a teaching aspect for me. Some days I have to sit back and look and learn as a parent. So, it’s been a lot of fun. The only bad thing [is] going into all these gyms a lot of times and having to turn kids down to some degree because I want to be there for my son. But other than that, I’ve enjoyed it.
“And I’ve had a chance to watch a lot of high school basketball of my son’s. I also had a chance to also get involved and watch some college games. So, it’s been a great journey and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”
Said Pippen Jr.: “Just having the support system like that was always good for me growing up. And it kept the pressure on me to perform well, if my dad was in the stands, or something like that.”
Pippen Sr. was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft. The projection for his son isn’t as stellar, as he is projected to be a second-round pick, at best, after forgoing his senior year at Vanderbilt.
One NBA scout said the knock on Pippen Jr. is his lack of size, athleticism and ability to defend quick guards. But he also impressed scouts at the NBA Chicago pre-draft camp with his smothering defense and basketball IQ while scoring 21 points in a game. He’s also worked out for 12 teams ahead of the draft.
Two longtime NBA scouts told Andscape that whether Pippen Jr. is drafted or not on Thursday, they expect him to find a way onto an NBA roster next season.
“He is very clever and creative,” a longtime NBA scout said. “He tends to turn the ball over. But he wasn’t playing with a great supporting cast at Vanderbilt. His lineage, basketball DNA and creativity can [help him] fight his way on a roster as a backup guard. He has a chance to figure it out and find a way on. Might have to fight through G League.”
Pippen Jr., who doesn’t plan to attend the draft in Brooklyn, New York, seems to have his draft process in great perspective. He believes this is just the next step he has to work hard for.
“I wasn’t too highly recruited, went to college in the SEC that wasn’t that good. But I still performed there,” Pippen Jr. said. “I’m just going through my whole journey, just proving the doubters wrong. I would say that’s going to be my journey to the next level, is being a hard worker, [then] see how my path turns out. …
“I could bring winning into any team. That’s my ability to playmake, my ability to impact the defense, being pesky on the ball. And just looking back on my career, every year I’ve gotten better skillwise. And I think I’m just ready for that next step. If you want me, I’m a guy that’s overlooked, undervalued, but I do a lot to contribute to winning, and do all the little things.”
Because he was working out for the Sacramento Kings last weekend, Pippen Jr. wasn’t with his dad on Father’s Day. Pippen Sr. is hoping for a belated Father’s Day gift: his son being drafted on Thursday and playing in an NBA game next season.
“To be able to follow the NBA game with a son as part of it, I’m sure it’s pretty special,” Pippen Sr. said.