"It's near home," Pippen explains. Dallas has always been known as a suburb of Hamburg and Conway, Arkansas.
A stranger coming upon the scene from...well, he would have to come from pretty far...wouldn't know which guy was the bigger star. How could he tell? Which one signed the contract extension at the end of last season, $18 million that will carry him through the 1997-98 season? (Pippen.) Which one has an eight-year Bulls contract and made at least $10 million last season from all his enterprises combined? (Jordan.) Which one is featured in his own shoe commercial, captured in color as he rises ewer a Twilight Zone group of basketball players from the black-and-white '50s? (Pippen.) Which one has made a zillion commercials, has his own line of shoes, his own line of shirts and pants and jackets and what-have-you? Which one, two days earlier, had withdrawn from the NBA licensing program to pursue his own financial interests alone? (Jordan.) Which one is going to be featured in SI?
"Are you going to be on the cover?" Jordan asks.
"I don't know," Pippen says.
"You should be."
(Which one has been on the cover 18 times, once in a hologram that showed him breaking into a smile as Sportsman of the Year?)
Pippen says he has learned a lot from Jordan. How could he not learn? He has watched the madness and seen how nice Jordan is to people, how he gives them time, how he smiles and keeps rolling. The inconveniences of Pippen's life are nothing compared with the inconveniences of Jordan's life. How could Pippen not handle his life when Jordan somehow handles that life? Pippen says he has learned about basketball from Jordan. He cannot be Jordan. Who can? Every other player in the NBA takes what is available on the floor. Jordan takes what he wants. This is Pippen's description of the difference.
He says he likes to play against Jordan in practice. They are a good match. They both like to work hard. Another lesson from Jordan. Work hard in practice. Pippen says he mostly concedes the jumper and tries to stop the drive. What else are you going to do? He says Jordan has to watch out for him because he is quick and can handle the ball. What would happen if they met in a game, one-on-one?
"He's afraid of me," Jordan says. "He'll never play me."
"I'm not afraid," Pippen says. "I'm sure I'd do well."