15 years ago, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen sent a message to Chicago from Barcelona
15 years ago, the whole world got a taste of the United States’ full power in basketball. While the rest of the competition knew that the collection of NBA stars, and a college standout, were already great, they still had no idea what exactly was coming to them.
Take Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for instance. These two were the best at what they do. They also arrived in Barcelona with a personal mission, and the unfortunate victim was a future teammate of theirs in Toni Kukoc.
Kukoc was Croatia’s best player at the time, but he was reduced to a mere puppy when faced with what has been tagged as the dreaded “Doberman defense” courtesy of Jordan and Pippen. In GQ’s 2012 article on the original Dream Team, Karl Malone described the annihilation that the two Bulls teammates brought on against Croatia.
“You ever watch a lion or a leopard or a cheetah pouncing on their prey? We had to get Michael and Scottie out of the locker room,” Malone said, “because they were damn near pulling straws to see who guarded him. Kukoc had no idea.”
It was mission accomplished for both Jordan and Pippen. The message was sent to Chicago and then-general manager Jerry Krause. The latter’s decision to pay Kukoc came at the expense of the vastly-accomplished and more-proven Pippen, which enraged Jordan.
Via NBA TV’s documentary entitled “The Dream Team”:
“Krause was recruiting this guy and talking about how great he was. That’s like a father who has all his kids and now he sees another kid that he loves more than he loves his own. So we weren’t playing against Toni Kukoc. We were playing against Jerry Krause in a Croatia uniform.”
Between Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen sit 17 All-Defensive first team selections — nine for the former and eight for the latter — which arguably puts them atop the NBA’s most menacing defensive duos of all-time.
On that fateful night in Barcelona, Kukoc was limited to a paltry 2-of-11 shooting while turning the ball over seven times. He only had this to say:
“I’ve never seen that kind of defense before.”