The beautiful part is that the fiction is nonfiction. No name has to be changed to protect the innocent. Everyone is innocent, from beginning to end. Nothing has to be changed at all.
"We used to play at the Pine Street courts," Ron Martin, a friend of Pippen's, says. "We must have been 13, 14 years old. We'd play as late as we could, until this old man would run us off for making noise. We'd play everything. Baseball. Scottie was on the Giants. I was on the A's. We played a million games. Basketball. We'd play one-on-one forever. We were convinced that one of us was going to make the NBA. We just didn't know which one. I was a little bit bigger than him, heavier, stronger, so I used to lean on him. Then...somewhere...he got big on me."
The town was Hamburg population 3,394, one of those places in the middle of no where where everyone know everyone else and not much changes. One kid, Myron Jackson, had gone off and played a the University of Arkansas—Little Rock in '82 and had a tryout with the Dallas Mavericks in '86, but that had been that for bright lights. Pippen was not exceptional. He was just another good kid, quiet, moving through the high school. He was 6'1½" as a senior, starting at point guard Martin, his friend, was a junior shooting guard. The coach, Donald Wayne, remember that Pippen was "nothing tremendous, but good. Not flashy, but consistent." No Myron Jackson, for sure.
When no college called, Pippen asked Wayne for help. Wayne helped. He will hel any good kid who is trying to go to college. He called Don Dyer, his old coach at Henderson State in Arkadelphia, Ark., who had moved on to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Wayne did not promise miracles. He said he had a point guard, 6'1½", who would be a good manager under a work-study program, and, well, the kid's parents and brothers and sisters did seem to run sort of large. Maybe the kid would grow. Maybe he could even be a player. Dyer look a chance. The kid grew.
He was 6'3" by the time he arrived on campus.
He was 6'5", 165 pounds, skinny as a minute as a sophomore.
He was 6'6", 185 as a junior.
He was 6'7" by the end of his senior season.
"The surprising thing to me is that he never lost any of his coordination in all of this growing," Arch Jones, then the assistant basketball coach at UCA, says. "He was able to take the skills he had learned when he was smaller and use them when he was bigger. His arms are so long, his hands so big that he really plays like someone 6'10", 6'11"."
Central Arkansas is an NAIA school, a small college, and it had never sent a basketball player to the pros. In 1979 Monte Coleman had moved along to play football for the Washington Redskins, and five years later Wes Gardner had started pitching a baseball for the New York Mets (last year he was waived by the San Diego Padres), but no one from UCA had advanced in basketball. The idea that Pippen could make the jump came only in brief flashes of revelation. Hey! Isn't this kid playing every position on the court? Hey, isn't he dominating these games? Couldn't you project that onto another level? No one knew for sure, and the team did not help, falling a basket or two short every year in that last local tournament, missing the NAIA finals and national exposure in Kansas City.