There was no telling the full measure of Scottie Pippen’s future greatness when he and Central Arkansas men’s basketball coach Don Dyer first met in the spring of 1983.
Pippen was a quiet 17-year-old, a gangly 6-1 guard with no scholarship offers. But he had led Hamburg High School to the Arkansas state playoffs and earned all-conference honors as a senior. So Donald Wayne, Pippen’s coach at Hamburg who played for Dyer at Henderson State, arranged a meeting.
“He was such a low-key guy. He didn’t say much at all,” Dyer recalled to NBA.com in 2010. “The three of us went into my office and talked, and then later on he worked out. Scottie impressed me that day as someone who would work, listen and learn. He did all those things much quicker than I ever would have imagined. …
He joined UCA’s team, which played in the NAIA, as walk-on and team manager. Not only did Pippen’s confidence grow, so did Pippen.
“Scottie didn’t have the size early on, but he always had long arms,” Dyer said. “He kept growing and growing.”
By his junior year, Pippen had grown to 6-7, and from there Pippen grew into one of basketball’s greatest players. As a senior, he averaged 23.6 points, 10 rebounds, 4.3 assists and nearly 60% field-goal shooting to earn consensus NAIA All-American honors. UCA won consecutive Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championships in Pippen’s last two seasons.
The Seattle SuperSonics made Pippen the fifth player selected in the 1987 NBA Draft. But they dealt him to the Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice and two draft picks, a trade Bleacher Report rated the fourth-worst in NBA history.
Pippen, the ultimate supporting player, teamed with Michael Jordan to lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in eight years. Pippen also played on the original Dream Team that dominated the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. He also played on the Dream Team II in 1996 in Atlanta.
Pippen was a seven-time NBA All-Star and was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all-time in 1997.
Thanks to a spring day in 1983, judged the greatest sports moment in UCA history.
“It’s really where it all started,” Pippen said in 2010, when Central Arkansas retired his No. 33. “When I grew up, I was just another kid who wasn’t going to college. I didn’t have any scholarship offers and there were times I wasn’t even thinking about basketball. I just wanted to be in a positive environment and have a situation where I could lead a good life.
“Basketball ultimately gave me that.”
Above: Scottie Pippen earned NAIA All-American honors as a junior and senior at Central Arkansas. (Courtesy UCA Archives)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Campbell
• Tuesday: Central Arkansas and Central Florida
• Wednesday: Central Michigan and College of Charleston
• Thursday: Charleston Southern and Charlotte
• Friday: Chattanooga and Chicago State