SCOTT Burrell was given a small spotlight in Episode VII of the highly popular Netflix series The Last Dance, which chronicled the Chicago Bulls' run to its sixth championship back in 1998.
The 6-foot-7 winger joined the defending champions in the fall of 1997 in exchange for Dickey Simpkins as he mostly came off the bench for the Bulls.
In the episode, Michael Jordan told how integral Burrell was to Chicago's hopes for a second three-peat, noting that no matter how much he tried to get under the skin of the Connecticut product, he only got a smile.
"Scottie Burrell was a talented guy. What Scottie was lacking was a commitment of determination, seriousness. So he became my guy to kinda push — keep pushing, keep pushing. I tried to get him to fight me a few times — in a good sense — like I'm tired of you picking on me, that type of mentality. I could never get him," he said.
"He's such a nice guy. But I know we're going to need him at some point and time, and he's going to remember this and he's going to go out there and he'll fight."
Coach Yeng Guiao couldn't agree more with Jordan's sentiments about Burrell.
"He was too nice to a fault," the veteran mentor said of the eight-year NBA veteran. "Even dito, titinitira na siya at binubugbog, pero nakangiti pa rin. Hindi siya yung import na babalikan ka niya at didikdikin. Kahit ganoon yung natatamo niya, he's playing his regular game."
Five years since Chicago hoisted the 1998 NBA championship, Burrell found his way to the Philippines and still played for the Bulls - Red Bull Barako, that is.
Burrell, then a 32-year-old coming off a stint with Shaanxi Gaitianli Kylins in the Chinese Basketball Association, came in as Red Bull's replacement import for Ramel Lloyd, who only played three games in the 2003 Reinforced Conference.
Guiao, though, shared that Burrell was actually the Barako's first choice import given his caliber and championship pedigree.
"Siya ang first option namin, pero hindi siya nakapunta agad dito dahil na-injure siya," he said. "Pumasok yung replacement, si Ramel Lloyd, and I think we were not happy with him. Nagkataon naman na Scott became available at that time cause he already recovered from his injury."
Burrell, who also had stops with the Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, and New Jersey Nets in his NBA career, made his PBA debut on September 14, 2003, pumping 19 points in an 89-74 victory over Sta. Lucia.
That kickstarted a 10-game win streak for the Barako as they finished the elimination phase on top of Group B with an 11-2 win-loss record.
"Actually, ang ganda ng pasok niya sa team. We won 10 straight sa kanya," recounted Guiao. "He was really good. Hindi siya power player kasi noon ang usong import, yung mga iso(lation) players na malalakas. He was a skilled player, he played inside and outside, defended well, and an overall smart player."
Despite his gaudy resume, Burrell never made the team feel that he was better than any of them.
"On a personal note, you can't say anything bad about him. He was professional and he was real good to his teammates. I know he shared a lot of Jordan stories with his teammates," the now-NLEX coach said. "As good as he was and as good as his credentials were, he was very humble.
"Karamihan ng magagaling na imports, palaging may ere at palaging may problema. But he's not that kind. Isipin mo, he was teammates with Michael Jordan at nanalo na siya ng NBA championship, ang laki ng sweldo niya, but he never gave us any problems.
"He was a legitimate NBA player and a champion player at that, but he never looked down on anybody. Wala siyang ere and he did all the things you asked him to do in practice."
At Red Bull, Burrell teamed up with the likes of 2002 PBA MVP Willie Miller, as well as veterans Nelson Asaytono and Vince Hizon.
The Barako also had upstarts Lordy Tugade, Mick Pennisi, Davonn Harp, Junthy Valenzuela, Jimwell Torion, and Topex Robinson, as well as rookies Enrico Villanueva and Cyrus Baguio in that campaign.
Burrell was such a joy to team up with that he even tried his best to share his knowledge to his teammates, as Guiao recounted.
"He coaches on the side and taught some tricks that he knew to his teammates. Konting gulang, konting positioning," he said.
"What he taught the team was to impart his experience and knowledge. Iba sila mag-isip sa NBA eh, lalo na siya na nanggaling sa championship team. He was able to think two or three steps ahead at ang ganda ng anticipation niya, nababasa niya yung gagawin at mangyayari. That was the instincts that you built by playing with Chicago and he's trying to impart that. Kaya lahat ng teammates niya, bilib sa kanya. The players were asking him how do you do this, do that, how to get better, and he's very accomodating to them."
Injuries, however, hobbled Burrell once Red Bull got to the playoffs as his knee injury once again acted up.
"Pagpasok namin ng quarterfinals, may issue siya sa tuhod niya. Nag-dip yung laro niya nung quarters, talo kami," shared Guiao. "Pero kahit injured na siya, gusto pa rin niya maglaro. Pinilit namin at nilaro niya yun in pain."
Talk 'N Text, behind Asi Taulava, rookie Jimmy Alapag, and import Damien Cantrell, stopped the Barako's streak with a 120-116 victory in Game One of the best-of-three quarterfinals.
Red Bull got back with a 99-80 Game Two win to equalize the series, but failed to take Game Three as the Phone Pals scored the 95-81 clincher over the Barako. Incidentally, that game also saw Torion clothesline Alapag out of frustration in the final 48.9 seconds with the game already beyond doubt.
In 13 games, Burrell averaged 16.5 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks in his lone PBA stint.
Guiao knew that Red Bull hoped to bring Burrell back in the coming seasons, but he was no longer available as he played for Idaho Stampede in the Continental Basketball Association the following year.
"We actually considered him, pero di na siya available. Ang pagkaalala ko, he was still trying to get back to the NBA at that time," he said.
The Barako went on and had a bevy of imports in the 2004 Fiesta Conference, going through six reinforcements before settling for Victor Thomas, who helped them finish runner-up to eventual champion Ginebra.
Although Burrell never got back to the Philippines, Guiao said that those Red Bull players only had fond memories of the former Chicago Bull.
"Mabait talaga siya. He's really well-liked by the team," he said.