Scottie Pippen on partnering with American Express and the Calm meditation app to tell the history of basketball in a ‘Sleep Story,’ and the value of mindfulness in his NBA playing career

Scottie Pippen wearing a blue shirt: Scottie Pippen. Day One Agency

© Day One Agency
Scottie Pippen. Day One Agency

  • Scottie Pippen spoke to Business Insider about partnering with American Express and the Calm meditation app to narrate an audio history of basketball for the app.
  • Pippen also discussed how he and the Chicago Bulls used mindfulness to excel as a team, and called the NBA bubble “pickup basketball” in an extended reflection on it. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

NBA legend Scottie Pippen partnered with American Express and Calm, a meditation app, to narrate an audio history of the game of basketball in a “Sleep Story” that debuted on the app on Tuesday. 

Pippen spoke to Business Insider in a phone interview about the partnership that led to “The History of a Dream,” Calm’s 34-minute audio project intended for sleep induction, written by Charles Duffie and narrated by Pippen.

Through the companies’ partnership, eligible American Express cardholders can access a one-year premium membership with Calm to hear Pippen’s story, as well as a virtual discussion with Pippen and sports psychology expert George Mumford, which will take place on October 8 and donate all ticket proceeds to the Scottie Pippen Youth Foundation.

In our interview, Pippen discussed how he used mindfulness as a tool in his NBA career with the Chicago Bulls. He also gave an extended reflection on the NBA bubble, which he described as “pickup basketball,” singling out Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo’s postseason performance as an indicator that the game in the bubble is comparatively “so easy.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What drew you to this project and this partnership?

Well, lately, I’ve been doing some voiceovers. I did one with Michelob Ultra for the return of the NBA in the bubble. So it’s something I’ve been exploring a little bit, with my voice. Then had this opportunity come across through my agent. And it’s worked out great.

You’ve done other voiceover work in the past. None of it was geared toward sleep or meditation. How did you approach this particular project creatively?

Calm came to me and put the offer to me to tell a story about the history of basketball. So I thought it was pretty neat, very fitting, being that I played in the game. It was something that I felt would have longevity, whether I was dead or alive. So, like I said, it was something that I felt was a great fit. And it gives me, a basketball player, the opportunity to tell the history of the game in a calming way, to kind of lull my listeners to sleep, if I could say that.

Was there a point in your life that you realized your voice was deeper than most people?

I can’t say there was a point in my life. I mean, I always knew that I had a deep voice. So I’d get compliments about it a lot. And I’d get a lot of people saying, “Hey, you should do voiceovers.” I never thought that I would ever do it, but… [extended pause]… look what happened.

Scottie Pippen holding a sign posing for the camera: Calm; American Express

© Calm; American Express
Calm; American Express

Was mindfulness something that you practiced consciously in your career, or how did that factor into your game?

Well, it was introduced to me through basketball. I started to learn a little bit about how to use the mind in terms of stretching, after I had had back surgery in 1988. But Phil Jackson introduced it to our basketball team, early on when he took on as head coach of the Bulls in 1990. And it was something that took some time for us to buy into, as individuals, as well as a group. But as the season went on, we practiced it more and more, together as a unit.

And it became a ritual for us as a team and something that we believed in. It got to the point where, as a team and as players, we would tease each other to say, “You need to get your mindfulness together.” So it was something that really grew to be a part of who we were as a basketball team, because we were very focused, very together, but more so, we was looked at as one. Which is very hard to do when you play with Michael Jordan [laughs].

[Laughs]. Have you been able to meditate in a pandemic? It’s been an impossible task for me, to get a clear head.

Yeah, I mean, I use it in different ways. Again, I use it for relaxing. I use it for stretching. I mean, I think it’s been great for me during the pandemic, because you’re kind of stuck in the moment. And that’s what mindfulness is about, is sort of living in the moment.

Scottie Pippen holding a basketball: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on the Chicago Bulls in 1998. Reuters

© Reuters
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on the Chicago Bulls in 1998. Reuters

In the history of basketball, I think this NBA bubble is an inflection point. I was wondering what you’ve made of it as a former player and as a viewer.

Well, I’m going to be honest. It’s not NBA basketball. It’s not the hard grind. It’s not the travel. It’s not the fans. It’s not the distractions. Really, to me, it’s pickup basketball. It’s going to the gym. Yeah, you already got your team. Y’all practicing together. But it’s a more of a pickup type of basketball game, because there’s no fans in the stands. So there is no distraction. There’s no real noise. There’s no pressure on the players, you know. Prime example: I looked at Rondo. Rondo ain’t made three pointers in his whole NBA career. Now, all of a sudden, he’s in a bubble, he’s probably a 50% three point shooter. I haven’t even checked the stats.

But that’s just something that I consider making the game so easy, because Rondo can’t score inside of an arena, when you got depth perception. Like, there’s a whole lot of things that make the NBA hard. The bubble makes the NBA easy to me. There’s no travel. That’s the killer itself. So you’re sleeping in the same bed every night. You’re walking to the gym. You’re not having to go with a 25 to 50 minute bus ride to an arena. You’re not having to probably even sit in the arena for two hours before the game, talk to the media, deal with all the outside stuff that they’re trying to pull you in to make some distraction and, you know, throw the team in a loop. So it’s a different game, but it’s very entertaining.

I was going to say, with how rapid it is, the AAU tournament style of play, I would think it’d be more tiring. But it sounds like you would say it’s less exhausting, because of all the other factors.

Wow. I mean, when you watch the game, you see how their runs go. Like no lead is comfortable. I mean, just the style of the game to me has changed even more in the bubble. Teams are just shooting three pointers. They’re more three point attempts. The whole deal with the NBA is the first one to 120 can win. That’s the game. But the opposite side of that, if you stop a team, you can win. So, you gotta do both.

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