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Walter Ford: Know your worth

We’re now more than a month into a world without organized athletic competition and finding a way to scratch one’s “sports entertainment” itch has been tough.

It’s been a mixed bag as to how sports-focused networks are filling their time slots. Lots of “expert” talking heads rambling on, classic games from years past and half baked live-sports attempts like ESPN’s “HORSE” are the apparent options.

But on Sunday, ESPN aired the first two episodes of “The Last Dance,” a 10-part docuseries exploring the Chicago Bulls’ championship run during the 1997-98 season. Viewers were transported back to the 90s and made privy to never before seen footage and interviews from one of the greatest dynasties of all time.

While mesmerized by the cornucopia of vintage highlights and intrigued by the interviews, one thing stuck out to me more so than anything else — Scottie Pippen’s contract.

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Arguably one of the top-five players in the league at the time, Pippen’s $2,775,000 salary ranked him 122nd in the NBA.

Heading into the ‘97-98 season, Pippen had helped the Bulls to five championships, been named to the All-Defensive team seven times, was an All-NBA selection six times and made five All-Star teams, but was the sixth highest player on his own team.

Pippen was probably just as important to the Bulls’ success as was Michael Jordan. Just ask Jordan.

“He helped me so much in the way I approached the game, in the way I played the game. Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen,” Jordan said in the documentary. “I didn’t win without Pippen. And that’s why I consider him my best teammate of all time.”

It was Pippen’s own fault for signing a bad contract in the first place, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was underappreciated and his value was far greater than his compensation.

We’re seeing a lot of that in our every day lives as we realize that so many “essential workers” on the front lines such as nurses, doctors, first responders, law enforcement, grocery store clerks, postal workers, truck drivers and others who put their health on the line so the rest of us don’t have to are woefully underpaid.

Scottie eventually got paid. He got a big contract from the Houston Rockets the next season and went on to make nearly $110 million before his Hall of Fame career concluded.

Maybe, hopefully, when the world returns to normal some of the underpaid and underappreciated frontline workers in our every day lives will be valued more appropriately as well.

The next two episodes of “The Last Dance” are scheduled to air 6-8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.

STAYING IN SHAPE: Over at Generations Health Club in South County, owner Wendy Quist is offering several ways for the club’s members, and the community, to stay fit during the current shelter-in-place order.

Generations Health Club is offering multiple avenues to stay active, including posting four to five virtual classes every day that can be accessed through their website http://www.generationshealthclub.com. The videos are available to anyone, including non-members.

In addition to those videos, the gym is posting a “trainer video of the day,” which is available to anyone.

There is also a Quarantine Fitness Challenge which is also open to anyone, and runs from April 15 through May 15. Quist said late entries are welcomed, but won’t be eligible to win the overall prize. There are weekly prizes, though, and Quist encourages anyone to participate

“Right now, we’re just wanting to help everybody in the community, member or not member,” said Quist. “Stay active, stay healthy and be happy during this time when life is difficult. We know through fitness and activity, it helps remedy a lot of things we’re going through. We want to offer that to everybody.”

FROM SIERRA TO SAN FRAN: Former Sierra College standout wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the 25th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night. The McQueen High School (Reno) graduate shined in his sophomore season at Sierra, grabbing 60 balls for 960 yards and 14 touchdowns during the 2017 season. The 6-foot, 1-inch pass catcher then went to Arizona State where he notched 65 catches, 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns in his senior season with the Sun Devils. The 49ers also added an impact player on the defensive side of the ball by drafting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, from the University of South Carolina, with the 14th pick.

REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD: I’m a big fan of super star athletes who don’t take themselves too seriously and at the top of that list might be Rob Gronkoski. Everyone’s favorite gridiron goofball made headlines this week when he came out of retirement for one more run with Tom Brady.

After a year hiatus from the NFL in which he won a WWE Championship belt and made it to the Super 9 on the popular tv show “The Masked Singer,” the hulking tight end is back. Can’t help but be intrigued by the Buccaneers.

END IT WITH A QUOTE: From Pippen in 1995, “I never wanted to be Michael Jordan, although I would like to trade bank accounts.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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