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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

‘For Michael It Was, “OK, Take Us Home”‘

The Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in game six of the 1997 NBA Finals to win their sixth championship in eight years.

The take me home songs are a genre of country music that originated in the late 1950s and peaked in popularity in the early 1970s.

Without Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls would not have won any of their six titles. Of course, other great players contributed to the Bulls’ six championships in the 1990s, but Jordan was the team’s captain and one of the game’s best scorers.

However, just because he was the greatest player on the squad didn’t mean he was his teammates’ favorite. Toni Kukoc, a three-time champion, recently said that Scottie Pippen was just as essential to Chicago’s success as Michael Jordan — and he didn’t stop there.

Toni Kukoc enjoyed success alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on the Bulls.

Chicago Bulls legends Michael Jordan and Toni Kukoc at the 2021 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony. On Sept. 11, 2021, Michael Jordan congratulates Toni Kukoc (from right) during the 2021 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony. | Getty Images/Maddie Meyer

Toni Kukoc’s friendship with Chicago Bulls teammates Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen didn’t start off well. He was simply another reminder of their dislike for general manager Jerry Krause, which led to the two of them picking on Kukoc at the 1992 Olympics when the Dream Team played Croatia.

Kukoc ultimately left Europe in 1993 to join the Bulls, whom he had been selected by in 1990. However, MJ was not on the squad at the time since he had retired to pursue a baseball career.

Despite this, Kukoc had a successful rookie season, averaging 10.9 points per game alongside Pippen before averaging 15.7 points per game in 1994-95. However, after returning to basketball towards the conclusion of the 1994-95 season, Croatia’s superstar became a crucial member of one of the league’s most powerful teams.

Between 1995-96 and 1997-98, the 6-foot-11 big scored 13.2 points per game and helped Chicago capture its second three-peat in a decade.

Jordan and Pippen both departed the Bulls after the 1997-98 season, and although both had a part in Kukoc’s success, Pippen tends to come up more in discussions regarding Kukoc’s favorite teammate in Chicago.

Over Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen was arguably his favorite Bulls teammate.

Kukoc was just inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and he praised Pippen throughout his NBA career. Scottie is “probably” Kukoc’s favorite Bulls teammate, according to NBA writer Sam Smith, who wrote a story on Kukoc’s love for Pippen, and his NBA.com headline reflected that possibility: Toni Kukoc’s Favorite Teammate on the Bulls? Scottie Pippen is a basketball player from the United States.

According to NBA.com, Kukoc stated, “I always think Michael was definitely the greatest player.” “Scottie was just as essential to me as Michael. Because of the notion that Scottie was looking after the whole squad and protecting them. He’d bring the ball up and locate the appropriate individuals, and Michael’s response would be, “OK, take us home.”

During those years, and for the most of his career, Jordan was the team’s leading scorer. Every entire season he played alongside Kukoc, he topped the NBA in scoring, averaging 29.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists.

During those three seasons, though, Pippen had a significant influence on the game, averaging 19.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. Kukoc liked him because he could do a little bit of everything, and he similarly filled the stat sheet for his international teams. During the 1996 Olympics, Kukoc averaged 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game. Without Pippen and Jordan, he averaged 18.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in 1998-99.

According to NBA.com, Kukoc said, “I truly thought the first year Michael wasn’t there, I felt we (alongside Pippen) were playing something comparable.” “I felt at ease while I was playing with Scottie. I know what I’m thinking about how to pass the ball, and it’s comparable to what he was thinking about the game in general. For me, it was easy to play with Scottie straight immediately because I knew he’d notice me every time I was open; he’d throw me the ball and get it back.”

Toni Kukoc’s acknowledgment dispels a potential misunderstanding.

The irony in Kukoc’s admiration of Pippen as a Bulls teammate is that Pippen obscured one of his career’s most important plays.

You may recall that in Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference playoffs against the New York Knicks, Bulls head coach Phil Jackson handed Kukoc, not Pippen, the last shot. Kukoc hit the game-winning basket for the Bulls, but Scottie decided not to play, which was all anybody could talk about afterward, and has been the topic of discussion anytime that game has been mentioned since.

It’s fair to believe Kukoc has grudges towards Pippen. He made it about himself, not the team, at that moment. That, however, does not seem to be the case. 

Scottie, not Michael, is now the focus of Kukoc’s admiration. Pippen may have stolen the attention away from him in 1994, but Scottie is now the focus of Kukoc’s admiration.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

RELATED: Michael Jordan Has Talked to the Same Friend Nearly Every Day for More Than 30 Years: ‘We had a great time.’

The For Michael It Was, OK, Take Us Home is a song about the life of Michael Jordan. He was always looking for his home, which he found in Chicago. Reference: take me home where i belong.

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