Okay so far...
Jordan's defense was actually cleaner than Pippen's, believe it or not.
Not sure what games you
were watching, but in the 4 Golden State/Chicago games that I have on DVD from the early 90's, Jordan was put on Hardaway when Tim was burning Pax and BJ specifically
to slow him down and limit his penetration, which he did for the most part. Hardaway did no damage against Jordan in the games I have (though it's admittedly a small sample).
Jordan was 34 years old and well
past his defensive prime; AI was 21. Iverson is also possibly the quickest player to ever play the game, and is 6-7" shorter than Jordan. And
he was allowed to carry the ball a ridiculous amount on that crossover-- guys from Jordan's generation simply weren't used to defending "new school" crossovers like that (which AI introduced to the league, really), and so weren't prepared. Regardless, Jordan recovered and missed blocking AI's shot by a fraction of a second. Take 10 years off of Jordan's legs and he sends Iverson's shot into the second row. And if he was younger, he wouldn't have had to "bite" on the cross as much as he did because he could have relied on his foot speed, rather than having to anticipate which direction AI was going in.
Kobe is getting burned by guys like Barbosa now
, at age 27 (not 34)-- does that mean that he's not a great defender? Of course not. Artest got burned by Wade a couple of years ago in the playoffs (at age 25, not 34) -- is Artest not a great defender now? The size difference between Artest and Wade is much less than between MJ and AI, mind you, to say nothing of their respective ages.
That's far from the only reason he got so many blocks. His weakside help and defensive instincts were phenomenal. Go watch some games.
What big guys behind him? Jordan never played with what could be called a competent shotblocking big man. That's what makes Jordan and Pippen's defense so unbelievable, actually-- they did it without any sort of interior defensive presence.
Pippen was not
better on the ball. In fact, if Jordan has a single advantage on Pippen defensively, this is it.
True. Pippen could occasionally defend some of the more "finesse" PF's like Larry Nance (but never true bangers like, say, Malone). So Pippen could guard 1-4 and Jordan could guard 1-3, while doing a better job on 1's and 2's in one-on-one situations.
Jordan reached when he knew he had the pick. Alvin Robertson (another great defender) was a master at this. Besides which, most of Jordan's steals came off the ball, by way of anticipation and reading plays. He was also a master at "turning" an offensive player by beating them to their initial spot on a drive attempt and then stealing the ball as they tried to spin if they weren't protecting it. Jordan was a very fundamentally sound defender, save for some times when he was trying to generate turnovers and force the action to get back into games.
Jordan was quite a bit better than a "good" defender, dude.
Phil Jackson called him "the best defender of his generation," and he was generally considered the best (or one of the top three along w/Hakeem and DRob) defensive player in the league from '89-'93-- even Jerry West called him the best defensive player in the league in '92. Whether or not you feel that that's hyperbole, I think it's clear that he was a bit beyond "good."
I have no
problem with anyone saying that Pippen was better (heck, even I
said Pip was better, but not for the reasons you've cited), but some of your comments lead me to believe that you didn't see Jordan in his defensive prime, only from '96-'98 (and possibly on Washington). That's just how it seems to me.