Back before Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc won three championships together, or were even teammates, they had a beef. Well, the beef wasn't really between Pippen and Kukoc. Rather, it was between Pippen and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause.
Krause was really proud of himself for landing Kukoc at the beginning of the second round of the 1990 NBA Draft. There was certainly some reason for it. Kukoc was a versatile 6'11 stud who'd already made a name for himself over in Europe at a young age.
Krause was so high on Kukoc that he was saving money under the salary cap to pay the Croatian. Again, that seems harmless enough considering how good Kukoc was. The problem was Pippen, a budding superstar, wanted to renegotiate the paltry contract that was paying him just $750,000 a year, but Krause wouldn't do it because he was saving the money for Kukoc.
Pippen ended up getting his money, but only after it was apparent that Kukoc was going to spend several more seasons overseas. That resulted in lingering resentment from not only Pippen, but Michael Jordan as well (Jordan hated Krause as it was).
When the 1992 Olympics came around, Pippen and Jordan were able to get their "revenge" on Krause. The Dream Team squared off against Kukoc's loaded Croatian squad, and the Bulls duo, especially Pippen, made it a point to make Kukoc's life a living hell:
The game was a bloodbath, and Pippen completely shut Kukoc down. In a 33-point victory, Kukoc managed just four points on 2-of-11 shooting, with his first basket coming on a layup at the very end of the first half.
After the game, Pippen delivered some fantastic quotes about how much he wanted to show up Krause by dominating Kukoc (via the Hartford Courant):
"I wanted the whole world to see us go face to face," Pippen said. "I would have ordered [Krause] a big-screen TV."
"I was anxious before the game," Pippen said. "I wanted to shut him down and embarrass him. I can't put Krause out on the court. I shook [Kukoc's] hand before and after the game. There's no bad blood between us."
No? So what did Pippen prove?
"Now I guess [the Bulls] see he's not ready for NBA competition."
So much fire.
And what did Kukoc have to say after the game?:
"They just wanted to prove to me how it is to play in the NBA," Kukoc said. "One game is not a test. I can play much better. After this game, I'm sure I have to improve my game. All parts."
Kukoc did play better when the two teams faced off again in the gold-medal game, putting up 16 points, nine assists and five boards. Of course, that didn't matter against The Dream Team, but at least for Kukoc's sake it wasn't another complete embarrassment.
while there was some bumpiness at the start of their run together, we all know that things turned out just fine. Pippen was the perfect sidekick to MJ, and Kukoc was one of the best sixth men in the league during the second three-peat.
But I always love revisiting the time when Pippen dominated Kukoc at the Olympics. It's a testament to his greatness as a defender, as well as just how crazy of a competitor he was.