Scottie and Larsa Pippen settle into Chicago’s North Shore and focus on family, philanthropy and a brand new reality show
For much of his career, Scottie Pippen has been one half of a dynamic duo. As a member of the Chicago Bulls from 1987 to 1998, Pippen was the yin to Michael Jordan’s yang — his defensive prowess, ability to step into almost any on-court role and more reserved personality complementing his teammate’s flashy dunks, buzzer-beating shots and hyper-competitive attitude. Together, Pippen and Jordan won six championships and a gold medal and cemented themselves individually and as teammates in the top tier of players and teams to ever grace the court.
It’s been eight years since Pippen, 47, retired from the game. Now, he’s stepping back into the spotlight as one half of a different dynamic duo: Scottie and Larsa. After living in Florida for several years, the Hall of Famer, his wife of 15 years and their four children — Scottie Jr., Preston, Justin and Sophia — have recently returned to Chicago, and have moved into a home on the North Shore.
“I feel like the people in Chicago are really grounded,” says Larsa, who grew up here. “It’s better for our family.”
Posting up in Chicago means returning to Scottie’s roots as a member of the Bulls organization. He recently took a new position as senior advisor to team president and COO Michael Reinsdorf, a role that has him helping out on everything from working with sponsors to advising current players. For Scottie, it’s good to be back not only with the team, but with the fans who supported him for so long.
“[The Bulls] have always been able to keep the players close to the fans, with opportunities to meet and greet and do things together,” says Scottie. “They’ve always tried to focus on guys with great character. Not just guys who can do things on the court, but guys that will be good for the city. For the players, it’s great to be a part of the community.”
Though they’ve been back just a few months, the Pippens have already entrenched themselves in the local philanthropic scene — and they’re doing much more than just making donations. In addition to working actively with the Chicago Bulls charities, Scottie recently made his theatrical debut in the Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” through Make-A-Wish, appearing on stage alongside a young aspiring actress. Larsa has been working with Gilda’s Club and Bright Pink, the Chicago-based organization that promotes screening and awareness of breast and ovarian cancers. It’s a non-profit that is especially close to Larsa after a recent scare. “The doctor sent me a letter that said, ‘We found something in your left breast. Come back in six months.’ I was like, ‘six months? Are you crazy?’” She sought out a specialist and everything turned out to be fine, though the experience was a wake-up call. “If I wasn’t as paranoid and crazy as I am, then who knows what could have happened?” she says. “I like that [Bright Pink] is about knowing your body and being proactive.”
On Jan. 8, the Pippens’ on-court accomplishments will take a backseat to their philanthropic efforts as the duo is honored for their work with the Chicago Bulls charities at a United Center gala. Helmed by Nancy Reinsdorf — with some input from Larsa — the event will feature dinner and cocktails with an ambiance that’s more glamorous than previous years. “We wanted it to be more formal, to take it to the next level,” says Larsa. “We didn’t want to have anyone wearing jeans at a Bulls gala. So we’re making it much nicer.”
While they’re taking center stage in Chicago, they’re about to put their lives on display nationally with a new reality show for WE TV called “Big Pippen.”
“At times athletes are portrayed in such a negative way,” says Larsa. “I want to show that my husband isn’t like that. He’s a great dad, a great husband and we’ve been married for 15 years. It will be fun to show.” While the couple has dabbled in reality TV before — Larsa was on the first season of the “Real Housewives of Miami” — this time they will have creative control, from producing credits to input on what to shoot. And this time, instead of a group of strangers, the show will follow the family as well as the extended Pippen brood (Scottie comes from a family of 12, Larsa from a family of five). Just don’t expect unnecessary drama or petty fights; at the end of the day, the Pippens are a pretty normal family. They take the kids to school every morning, can often be found in the stands at their kids’ basketball games, eat dinner together every night and Scottie and Larsa try to spend time together after the kids are in bed.
For average couples to be married 15 years is an achievement. But for celebrities, it’s practically a lifetime. So what’s the secret? “There are times when it’s so good, and time when it’s [not],” says Larsa. “But you kind of have to make yourself happy first, then you can make the other person happy.” For Scottie, making it work in a marriage mirrors his on-court drive. “We’re in it all the way. That’s what makes it work, two people who are willing to commit themselves.”
An Evening with the Chicago Bulls, Jan. 8. Tickets: $400, call (312) 455-4000 or visit Bulls.com/community.
PIPPEN ON THE BULLS
What does Pippen think of this year’s Bulls squad? While he cites Jimmy Butler as a young player who is fun to watch, he says that the team as a whole really gets him fired up. “People have written this team off in terms of what they’re capable of without Derrick [Rose]. But you know, we’re still one of the top teams in the league defensively, and that’s what it takes to win games. So as long as they maintain that caliber and put in that effort night in and night out, they’ll definitely be in the top 8 when it’s all said and done.”
HIS DREAM MATCHUP
When asked what current player he wishes he could have played against in his prime, he answers quickly. “LeBron [James],” he says. “I kind of played against Kobe, but I was at the end so it was like a grandfather playing against a kid. But I would have loved to play against LeBron.”
Story by Molly Each | Photos by Anthony Tahlier