Scottie Pippen's claiming he attacked a fan in Malibu this weekend in self-defense ... after the man called him the n-word and then spit at him.
Sources close to Pippen tell us, the middle-aged man who got his ass kicked by Pippen outside Nobu Sunday night was a drunk, overly aggressive fan who had been badgering Pippen for attention all evening ... beginning inside Nobu, where Pippen was eating with friends.
At one point, we're told one of Pippen's dinner guests went to the bathroom ... and the man sat in the guest's place ... continuing to pester Pippen with questions. We're told Pippen bit his tongue and politely asked the man to leave.
After the meal, we're told Pippen agreed to take a photo with the man outside the restaurant ... but the man continued to be aggressive, demanding an autograph as well. Pippen refused and we're told that's when the man dropped the n-bomb, shoved the NBA legend, then spat at him.
Sources close to Pippen say he lost it when the spit landed on his young daughter -- and Pippen flew into attack mode.
As we reported, the alleged victim was subsequently transported to a nearby hospital with severe injuries to his head, face, and back. Pippen has since spoken with authorities and he was not arrested.