Scotty Pippen Jr. is aiming to make his own name in the NBA

So who’s the best NBA player ever to do it? The king of the court? The greatest of all time?

“No,” Scotty Pippen Jr. said with a smile that looks a whole lot like his old man’s, “I can’t answer that.'”

Because Scottie Pippen has said it’s LeBron James, not Michael Jordan? Because Pippen ripped Jordan in the 2021 book “Unguarded,” claiming Jordan was “condescending” and used the best teammate he ever had as a “prop” in the blockbuster documentary series “The Last Dance”?

Nah, nothing like that. The younger Pippen, who spent the latter part of the week toiling at the NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena, has his own point of view.

“I haven’t seen Michael Jordan play,” he said. “My favorite player growing up was, I would say, Kobe Bryant. I’ve seen LeBron James play, but I haven’t seen the older guys. So for me to say LeBron or Kobe’s the best player, I haven’t seen Michael Jordan enough. But it’s probably Michael Jordan because everybody says he’s the GOAT.”

Young Pip said he didn’t even read “Unguarded.” But another thing: What’s with Scotty instead of Scottie?

“Both my dad and I have it on our birth certificates with a ‘Y,’ but my dad later changed it to ‘ie’ because he liked signing signatures with it.”

There you have it, folks. Now, let’s give the kid’s own basketball story some deserved oxygen.

An All-Southeastern Conference guard and league champion scoring out of Vanderbilt, Pippen, who left school after his junior season — and is a half-foot shorter than the father he calls his “best friend” — is considered a borderline draft prospect. He didn’t look like it in a full-length game Thursday as he poured in early buckets, including a high-arcing turnaround shot in the lane over a 7-footer and a three-point splash on which he drew a foul. A no-look pass to Purdue’s Trevion Williams for a dunk was chef’s-kiss good.

Pippen powered Vandy coach Jerry Stackhouse’s building project to a winning record this past season — a surprising feat — and often was magnificent. In three games against superpower Kentucky, he totaled 92 points. In three National Invitation Tournament games, he scored 84. He went out with 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists — a stat stuffer, like his dad — in a third-round NIT loss to Xavier, leading both teams in all three categories .

“He’s the epitome of a kid that really worked on his game, worked on his body,” said Stackhouse, a longtime NBA standout. “He’s a great citizen, [was] a great student.”

Perry Clark coached at South Carolina when a freshman Pippen scored 21 in the season finale to upset the Gamecocks. Pippen willed his last-place team to the finish line — driving so belligerently that he made 15 free throws — and made a huge impression.

“He’s so competitive, and he doesn’t shy away,” Clark said. “You know, Steph Curry has got all guards playing another way, at another level, but Scotty kind of fits into that mold. I’m thinking of Trae Young, too. I’m not saying Scotty is the next one of them — don’t get me wrong — but he fits into that. I think he can make it in the league.”

Since we’ve introduced superstars into the discussion, let Pippen tell you about his current favorite player, Damian Lillard.

“His story resonates with me,” he said. “Him being in Portland, people always told him to leave, go to the bigger-market teams. Me being at Vanderbilt, people always asked me why I didn’t transfer to the top schools. I kind of just stuck it out there and grinded because I believed in myself and I believed in what we had there.”

Pippen is impressively realistic, though, about what his extra-heavy load at Vandy means in terms of his NBA prospects.

“It allowed me to be a scorer, which I’d never been in my career, and the best player, which I’d never been in my career,” he said. “To make it to the next level, I know that’s not going to be my role. In high school, I wasn’t the best player on my team. In middle school, I wasn’t the best player on my team.”

Yet he rose, not unlike a wiry guy who came out of Central Arkansas in 1987.

“He probably got drafted, like, 30 years ago or something,” Pippen said, undershooting it by five.

It’s not simple being Scotty’s boy. Or Scottie’s.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Pippen said. “People will doubt me because of it. They expect me to be something, and they put — I wouldn’t say certain pressure on me — but they think of my dad when they look at me. …

“But my dad’s not out there with me. At the end of the day, it’s my own legacy.”

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