Scottie Pippen hasn’t played in the NBA since 2004, but the guy still looks as fit and game-ready as he did when he was destroying the league with Michael Jordan throughout the 1990s. And though he has left the game of basketball, the game hasn’t really left him. He’s a regular courtside presence at the United Center, watching his former team play as often as he can. He raised eyebrows when he said his 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team would sweep the 73-win Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. And his signature shoe, the Nike Air More Uptempo, has had a rebirth due to Nike’s decision to retro it in recent years.
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With the 2016 Summer Olympics on the horizon, Pippen, a member of the original Dream Team that waltzed through the 1992 Games, sat down to chat about his retro kicks, health worries in Rio, and who he thinks is LeBron James’s best teammate.
STACK: Your kicks have been making a comeback, but when you first saw them, you said they looked a little cocky.
Scottie Pippen: Yeah, it was a pretty bold statement going into the  Olympic Games. I’d worn the black versions in the [1992 NBA Playoffs], so I was pretty acclimated to it. But I knew it would be something that would be talked about.
Did players from other countries go wild when they first saw your shoes during those Olympics?
Back then, in 1992 especially, the international players were a little bit in awe of the American players. They idolized us. They were asking us for shoes, pictures, sweatbands, anything.
The safety and health of the players heading to Rio have been a concern. Was there ever anything in your Olympic experience that gave you pause about whether to participate?
There wasn’t anything like that. There was nothing distracting us or having us second guessing ourselves. But Zika is definitely something you have to look at. Especially for guys who haven’t experienced [the Olympics] before. You’re inviting your families over. Do you really want to go through that and put your family in that kind of jeopardy? But I think a lot of players are pulling out because of season injuries. They just can’t commit that whole summer. It’s a lot of time commitment. You’re pretty much giving up your recovery time and your family time to play for a medal.”
Speaking of that, LeBron James and Stephen Curry are sitting out the Rio Olympics. Do you think Team USA is being underrated because of some of the bigger names are not participating?
I think USA Basketball has done a great job selecting its players. They have a program now. I trust and believe in the guys who they’ve got out there. We have the best guys in the game. Obviously you can’t mail it in, you still have to go out and play the games, but I feel pretty good about [Team USA].
Finally, LeBron has been searching for a sidekick in Cleveland, like you were to Michael Jordan. Do you think he found his best teammate ever in Kyrie Irving?
I think [Kyrie] proved he can be the second option for their team, and he definitely stepped up and it did it through the whole playoffs. He helped them win a championship, so, yeah, he’s in the conversation.