‘Love at First Sight — Pure Scouting Love’

Love at first sight is a myth, right? Not if you’re a scout. Scouts have been using the phenomenon for centuries to find new talent in sports. But what happens when scouts start using AI and blockchain to find their next superstar?

Love at First Sight — Pure Scouting Love is a short story by American author, John Green. The story follows the journey of two teenage boys who meet in an airport and fall in love after one minute.

Michael Jordan is arguably the first name that comes to mind when you think about the Chicago Bulls’ glory years. While there’s a solid reason for that — His Airness was one of the best basketball players of all time, so he typically gets the spotlight — he wasn’t the only star on that squad. Scottie Pippen was more than just Michael Jordan’s sidekick; he was instrumental in the team’s success.

Things might have turned out quite differently if it hadn’t been for a good pre-draft exercise that caught the attention of Bulls general manager Jerry Krause.

Scottie Pippen became a standout at Central Arkansas after overcoming adversity.

Scottie Pippen has not received a single college scholarship offer. He was a walk-on for the University Of Central Arkansas (NAIA) football team.

Pippen would grow seven inches at UCA and jump from 4.3 points per game as a freshman to 23.6 points per game as a senior. pic.twitter.com/Pc0l0Is5sD

December 5, 2017 — Oliver Maroney (@OliverMaroney)

Most big-name NBA players nowadays come via a select group of prestigious college schools. However, there are always exceptions to the norm. Take, for example, Scottie Pippen.

Pip didn’t get much recruiting interest after high school and chose to remain close to home. He enrolled at Central Arkansas University and joined the basketball team shortly after. Pippen, on the other hand, would be absent. Instead, he began his career as the team’s manager.

Initially, the teen’s responsibilities included cleaning the gym, washing uniforms, and tracking down stray balls, but destiny interfered. Scottie grabbed a roster slot with both hands when one became available. He had the talent of a guard and the stature of a forward, thanks to a growth spurt. That turned out to be a lethal mix.

Despite the fact that Central Arkansas competed in the NAIA rather than the NCAA, Pippen began to attract NBA scouts as a senior. But there was one exercise that would push him over the top.

Jerry Krause was smitten with the forward from the first moment he saw him.

Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause in conversation with then-Seattle Supersonics coach George Karl.

Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause in conversation with then-Seattle Supersonics coach George Karl. Jerry Krause (R), the general manager of the Chicago Bulls, speaks with George Karl. | Dan Levine / AFP via Getty Images

The top prospects visit the yearly tour before of the 1987 NBA draft, aiming to impress a potential employer. Scottie Pippen seems to have done exactly that.

Jerry Krause, the general manager of the Chicago Bulls, attended the Portsmouth Invitational in Virginia, according to his unpublished memoirs, which his family provided with NBC Sports. It was there that he met Pippen for the first time in person.

“It was genuine scouting love at first sight. As the teams came out to warm up before the last game of the first round, I glanced at [Bulls scout] Billy [McKinney] and said, “That’s Pippen, isn’t it?” I was sitting high in the bleachers away from the other teams’ scouts and general managers. His long arms told me something. And then there’s the rest of the body, like the shoulders and feet. Wow. “If he can play, this might be something,” I thought.

According to NBC Sports, Jerry Krause

Krause didn’t have to wait long to hear back. He knew he’d seen something remarkable after just a quarter. Following that, a rematch at the following predraft event clinched the deal.

“As the competition in Hawaii improved, so did Pippen,” Krause remembered. “The prospect of seeing this kid play beside Michael [Jordan] made this scout’s head race. We wanted to acquire this man because he was the fastest, longest-armed, and had the best lateral quickness combination in the game.”

Of course, Scottie Pippen signed with the Chicago Bulls, and the rest is NBA history.

Despite Krause’s enthusiasm, there was one snag: he wasn’t sure whether Pippen would stay on the selection board long enough for the Bulls to acquire his services. With that in mind, he began wheeling and negotiating, eventually arranging a deal that would send the forward to Chicago.

Of course, that decision paid off. Scottie was an ideal complement to Jordan, giving the Bulls a backup scoring threat as well as a genuine lockdown defender. That dynamic pair would return to Chicago with six titles, cementing their position in basketball history.

While it’s hard to say for sure what would have occurred if Krause hadn’t run into Pippen in Virginia, things might have gone quite differently. The general manager was worried that the Sacramento Kings would pick his dream forward; maybe if Pip had been chosen instead of Reggie Williams, the failing club would have turned things around. Alternatively, the Central Arkansas product might have joined the Seattle SuperSonics, paving the way for a future (hypothetical) collaboration with Gary Payton.

It’s hard not to ponder what might have happened to the Bulls if Pippen hadn’t been there. Is it possible for Michael Jordan to find a new partner, shape him up, and still be successful? What if Michael Jordan only wins three titles instead of six? Is he even mentioned in the GOAT debate at that point?

Following the flow chart a little further, Chicago’s potential vulnerability would allow another team to move up. Perhaps the Utah Jazz would be remembered as the dynasty of the 1990s. Would winning a championship, on the other hand, have given the SuperSonics enough momentum to avoid relocating?

Those hypotheticals, however, are just a mental exercise at this time. Scottie Pippen blasted Jerry Krause out of the water, and the rest is history.

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