Featuring: Scotty Pippen Jr.
Photography: Robert Holland
Art Direction: Paulo Rafael
Interview: John Elliott

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Back in July, Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr. signed his rookie NBA contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. Between summer camp and the pre-season, we linked up to discuss his impressive bounce, in-game dunks, and his rise to the league from Chicago, to Florida, and finally landing in California. In the editorial spread, Scotty wears AAU Shorts styled with our latest collection pieces.

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John Elliott:

The ethos of our ‘AAU to the League’ series is the come up story - That dream you had when you first started playing AAU. In my experience, at that point, almost everybody thinks they’re gonna make it to the league. But - actually getting there is a whole other grind. For you, when did you start playing AAU?

Scotty Pippen Jr:

I think I started playing AAU when I was in first or second grade.

John:

[laughter] First or second grade? Oh my god. So it probably didn’t even hit you being that young, how systems, rankings, or squads worked.

Scotty:

No I wouldn’t say it hit me then. I’d say the pressure was still there. I feel like being that young, everyone’s parents being involved, everyone thought they were gonna make it.

John:

Starting out so young, at what age did you start to recognize that certain teams or squads are good? What were those programs?

Scotty:

I’d probably say fourth or fifth grade. I was living in Chicago. My Dad had a team, so I’d say that was a good program.

John:

Ok, and what was that team?

Scotty:

Pippen Elite. We started traveling around the country, playing against better teams at that time - so I’d say that age.

John:

Fifth grade, you start traveling around the country - Who were some of the guys that you saw then that also emerged as guys who might have a chance to play in the league?

Scotty:

One of them is my new teammate Talen Horton-Tucker. We played against each other almost every weekend in Chicago.

John:

From Chicago you moved to Florida right? What was the scene like there? How did that contrast?

Scotty:

Florida is more of a football scene, basketball isn’t too big out there. That’s the reason I ultimately came to California.

John:

Transitioning a bit to culture - I was going through your instagram and saw you were at the Kids See Ghosts concert with Ye and Cudi, but even way before that, with your parents, what were you guys listening to growing up?

Scotty:

I listened to everything - like you said Kanye - My Dad and Mom listened to him. All kinds of hip hop, and a little bit of R&B.

John:

So what about now, as you’re prepping for a game, what are you listening to in your headphones - say it’s a big game, what are you listening to in warmups or the locker room?

Scotty:

Hip Hop, upbeat music - Lil Baby, Durk.

John:

Chicago, I see the theme.

Scotty:

Those are the top two, but I listen to probably five artists on rotation for game day.

John:

Back to AAU. I saw you played for the Soldiers right? Because the Soldiers were around when I was playing AAU - And man I’m old - Leon Powe played for the Soldiers, who used to play for the Boston Celtics. There’s been a ton of NBA players who played for them. How did that happen and what was that program like?

Scotty:

After my junior year of high school, a few programs in LA reached out to me. At the same time, one of the recruiters from the Soldiers came down…He wanted my teammate and I to join the squad. He sold us on the history, what they had accomplished. I think the previous year they had won Peach Jam - they’d won it all. All of their players went Division 1 - so that spoke loudly - and that ultimately is the reason I went there.

John

Ok…How old were you when you had your first in-game dunk, and where was it?

Scotty:

I want to say sixteen. It was at summer league in Florida, after my sophomore year - so around sixteen or seventeen.

John:

And did you just go for it? Did you know you could easily get it down?

Scotty:

No, I kind of surprised myself…I probably should have laid it up.

John:

Was it a tip dunk or something?

Scotty:

No - It was a fast break dunk. That was my first dunk.

John

Yea because going through and watching your highlights…You have bounce, there’s a lot of moments where you’re either catching bodies, or in a fast break getting up and dunking on people. Obviously with the name Scotty Pippen Jr. I’m sure there’s been players who try to go at you. What was it like having to prove yourself to certain guys? And then, having that kind of bounce, at what age did you start to realize…I can get into the lane and catch a body?

Scotty:

Having the name, I’ve always been with it so it’s nothing new to me. But with the bounce, I’ve worked on my athleticism - I’m more of an in-game dunker, when the crowd is live.

John:

What a nice thing to be. “An in-game dunker.”

Scotty:

Yea, it’s my confidence going to the rim. I’ve always played with bigger players, so I got used to using my size well, and I think that gave me strength to be able to get to the basket.

John:

So transitioning now, summer league - playing for the Lakers - what has that been like? From starting out in Chicago, then moving to Florida, and finally setting up roots in LA. What has that meant to you?

Scotty:

My family’s out here now so it’s become a new home to me. But the summer league thing, as a kid I watched summer league - so it’s still kind of a surreal feeling. It doesn’t really feel like it’s happened, yet. It was a great experience…going out there, competing, and just having fun - It’s something I’ve always looked forward to. Finally being able to be there, to perform and play in front of fans, my family, it’s a dream come true.

John:

Thank you Scotty. I don’t really have much else. We really appreciate you doing this with us. For people who follow the brand this is an opportunity to get some insights into the sport - not just the NBA, but how people get to where they’re at - and like I said there’s so much behind AAU people don’t understand and even having that little glimpse, it’s eye opening.

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