‘Talking Sopranos’: Steve Schirripa Recalls Cheapness of ‘Hoardin’ Michael Jordan,’ ‘No Tippin’ Pippen’
Going by the ratings, The Last Dance has easily been the most successful documentary ESPN ever produced. Across the series’ first six episodes, Nielsen had the audience averaging 5.8 million viewers per installment during live viewing. Afterward, those numbers doubled (and then some).
If you haven’t caught wind of it yet, the 10-part doc focuses on the career of Chicago Bulls legend and perennial “Greatest Basketball Player of All Time” consensus pick Michael Jordan. (The title refers to the ’98 championship that ended the Bulls’ historic run and is the focus of the ESPN series.)
But while Jordan wowed fans and set records on the court, he didn’t win himself much love on the town before and after games. Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccala on The Sopranos and co-hosts the Talking Sopranos podcast, experienced that in his previous life.
Prior to breaking out as an actor on HBO’s classic mob show, Schirripa worked in Las Vegas as a bouncer, maitre d’, and comic-act booker for casinos. And in his Vegas days, he learned about the Hall of Fame cheapness of Jordan and Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen. Jordan and Pippen earned nicknames for it.
Steve Schirripa said the Bulls legends were known as terrible tippers
While the early Talking Sopranos episodes featured Schirripa and co-host Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) mostly sticking to Sopranos-centric business, the pair began stretching their legs a bit in episode 5. It began when Schirripa brought up the celebrity life.
But before he asked Imperioli about celebrities he’s rubbed elbows with, Imperioli asked about the best tippers from Schirripa’s Vegas days. Schirripa, 61, spoke about how $20 was a great tip when he started out in the ’80s. (Guys like Jerry Lewis and Tony Danza gave him twenties.)
Soon enough, Schirripa switched gears and began rattling off the worst tippers of his Vegas era. “Tiger Woods is the worst tipper in the universe,” he said. Then he turned to another sports legend. “Scottie Pippen, they call him in Vegas ‘No Tippin’ Pippen.'”
And Pippen’s more famous teammate on those unstoppable Bulls teams was right there with him. “Michael Jordan, they call him ‘Hoardin’ Michael Jordan,'” Schirripa said. (For reference, Jordan has a net worth of $2.2 billion, while Pippen earned over $100 million in his NBA career.)
Schirripa also told unflattering tales about J.Lo and Ellen DeGeneres
While tales of Jordan and Pippen stiffing croupiers and other casino employees might irk you, at least they did it on their own behalf. In the case of J.Lo, Schirripa recounted the tale of a night in Vegas when the singer-actor knocked a generous Ben Affleck tip in half.
“My buddy’s on a crap game at the Mirage. At the time, Ben Affleck is dating Jennifer Lopez. Big gambler, Ben Affleck. Generous guy,” Schirripa said. “He wins a ton of money, leaves $1,000 for the boys. He throws $1,000 in chips on the table. [J.Lo] picks up $500. ‘That’s enough.’ True story.”
But Schirripa noted that fame didn’t always equate to kinder treatment from celebrities. To illustrate his point, he told a story about his first trip to an Emmy awards in 2000 (after working on the Sopranos Season 2 that aired that year).
On his way back from the bathroom, Schirripa saw Ellen Degeneres. And though he knew her from his days booking comics at the Riviera, Ellen didn’t give him the time of day when he addressed her. “She dismissed me like I was a piece of gum on her shoe,” Schirripa recalled. “Like, ‘How dare you talk to me?'”