There’s plenty of star power already in Fort Kent, in the form of the European athletes preparing for this weekend’s biathlon World Cup. But if everything goes according to plan, there will be at least one more celebrity on the sidelines on Friday and Saturday: former Chicago Bulls basketball player Scottie Pippen.
“Right now, we’re planning for a visit from Scottie Pippen,” said Nancie Thibodeau, the event director for the Fort Kent World Cup.
Pippen, an NBA Hall of Famer, is best known for his play with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, when he teamed up with Michael Jordan to win six titles.
No biathlon fan, Pippen would be visiting Fort Kent as a guest of Sergei Kushchenko, the Russian first vice president of the International Biathlon Union who is also the right-hand man of New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
“Because of the Nets connection, [Kushchenko] has somehow struck up a friendship with Scottie Pippen,” said Andy Shepard, the president of the Maine Winter Sports Center—the organization behind the Fort Kent World Cup. “Because Kushchenko is here, people are suggesting that Scottie will be, too.”
Shepard cautioned that Pippen’s visit is still unconfirmed, but he said that organizers have lined up lodging for him—in an undisclosed location.
“We have a place for him, if he shows up. No hotels,” Shepard said. “We don’t want 600 basketball fans showing up at this guy’s house.”
If the visit pans out, Shepard said that Pippen would be in Fort Kent on Friday and Saturday—flying into nearby Presque Isle, then making the hour-long drive to the competition venue.
“It’s just as easy to get here as it is Las Vegas,” Shepard said.
Pippen would be by far the biggest American name to appear at the races, but Shepard also said that Paul LePage, Maine’s new governor, would be present as well—at a parade on Friday night, and for the pursuit races on Saturday morning.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.