“I was a dreamer,” Scottie Pippen told CNBC Make It in an interview while chronicling his successful career as an NBA player. Now a Hall of Famer, Pippen is venturing into entrepreneurship with the launch of his own organic, superfood popcorn company called Husk Organics and his line of bourbon, Digits.
The ex-NBA star created the popcorn brand with his business partner chef R.C. Mills. Released on July 6, the product will be available in several varieties, including cayenne and ginger, matcha and coconut water, and kale and broccoli, according to LIVEKINDLY.
At the peak of his career, Pippen played 17 seasons in the NBA and won six championships with the Chicago Bulls and two Olympic gold medals and he earned more than $109.9 million, making him one of the highest-paid NBA stars at the time.
His career earnings surpassed even Michael Jordan’s, despite being underpaid. According to the documentary, The Last Dance, Jordan’s sidekick, Pippen, signed one of the worst contracts in NBA history that paid him $18 million over five years. He was considered one of the top players in the league but was only the 122nd highest-paid player in the NBA during the 1997-98 season.
However, he eventually got what he was due when the Bulls’ then-general manager Jerry Krause signed Pippen to a five-year $67 million deal with the Bulls before Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets. Pippen ended up making over $109 million. He made $20 million more than Jordan.
Having retired in 2008, Pippen, now 55, said his success did not come easy. “Before you start the work, you have to dream and see yourself in this certain place in life,” he told CNBC Make It.
Pippen grew up in Hamburg, Arkansas. The youngest of 12 children, he and his siblings lived in a two-bedroom house as his family didn’t have much. But he had the will and desire to be better. He set his eyes on college basketball. He ended at the University of Central Arkansas and worked as team equipment manager, sweeping the gym, picking up basketballs, and doing laundry for the players, according to CNBC Make It.
His role as the team equipment manager offered him an opportunity to practice with the team and later saw it as an opportunity to play. “A few guys [on the team] academically fell off, so some scholarships came available, and I go back, ask the coach. I was very persistent, and he finally gave me a scholarship,” Pippen said in the ESPN documentary, The Last Dance.
Pippen capitalized on the opportunity offered him and by the end of his sophomore year, he was the “best player” on the team. In his senior college year, he was named a Consensus NAIA All-American, averaging 23.6 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.
He was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bulls when he completed college in 1987. He won six championships with the Bulls but became one of the underpaid talents before he ended up making plenty of money.