Scottie Pippen was sitting inside an AmericanAirlines Arena suite last week when he mentioned something he said 21 months ago that irked some Michael Jordan fans.
“I said LeBron James is probably going to be the best player to ever play the game at the end of his career, and everybody knocked me for it,” said Pippen, who teamed with Jordan to win six championships with the Bulls.
So now that James has won another MVP and his first championship, does Pippen feel vindicated?
“I don’t feel vindicated, but the numbers don’t lie,” he said. “They speak for themselves. No one can compare to [James]. He’s powerful, he’s strong, he’s big. He’s the most complete player the game has ever seen.”
Pippen, at the arena promoting Prime Joint Support Formula, was asked if James is now as good as Jordan ever was. “Physically,” Pippen said. “Mentally, Michael was more mature, not to take anything away from LeBron. Michael had four years of college under Dean Smith.
So a lot of what LeBron had to experience in the league, Michael experienced before he got there.”
But Pippen doesn’t like the James/Jordan comparison because “LeBron doesn’t play the same way. If you want to compare somebody to Michael, I would say Kobe Bryant. He’s got more that mentality.
“LeBron is a willing passer, plays more gracefully, bigger, easier. Michael was more flamboyant. There was more of a wow [element] of, ‘How did he do that?’ because people saw him being small doing all this stuff against giants. LeBron is a giant.”
At 28, James this season is shooting better (56.0 percent) than Jordan ever did in a single season (53.9). Jordan still owns the higher career scoring average (30.1 to 27.6), but James boasts superior career numbers in rebounds (7.2 to 6.2), assists (6.9 to 5.3) and three-point shooting. James, incidentally, will pass Jordan’s point total (32,292) in 5 1/2 seasons if he averages 27 a game.
“LeBron can guard the fastest guy on the floor and also has the size and strength to guard the biggest guy,” Pippen marveled. “Shaq would be the only guy he couldn’t guard and he ain’t in the league.”
### When the Big Three convened, some believed they could rival the Bulls’ dynasty. Even Jeff Van Gundy, who works Sunday’s Heat-Lakers game on ABC, predicted in 2010 that Miami would break Chicago’s single-season 72 win record.
So why hasn’t that happened? “I don’t think they’re that good,” Pippen said. “I’m not taking anything away from the Big Three, but I don’t think that team is that good. They’re one out of two.”
Though owner Micky Arison said a year ago that the luxury tax – which becomes more onerous in 2014 – won’t force him to break up the Big Three, it will affect the supporting cast.
Pippen said: “I don’t know that that group stays together” long enough to come close to the Bulls’ six titles. “LeBron may do it, but Dwyane Wade won’t last that long. Chris Bosh may get traded. You can’t compare them with [our Bulls] teams. You may be talking about [something like] the Pistons that won two championships.”
Couple final thoughts from Pippen: Contrary to Erik Spoelstra’s claims, he believes the Heat “is kind of bored. Championship teams normally don’t try to come back and set records. I don’t think there’s any concern.”
And he disagrees with Charles Barkley’s contention that Wade’s skills have diminished. “He’s still at the top of his game,” Pippen said. “Why should he have to kill himself to try to quiet his critics in the regular season? He’s coming off a championship. What does he have to prove?
“The media is going to always kill him, because if you aren’t playing up to LeBron’s level, you [allegedly] aren’t who you say you are or who you used to be. That’s the way I felt playing with Michael.”
I'm neither a LeBron nor Kobe guy, but isn't ranking either guy difficult at this point in time? Neither is retired, so their careers aren't set in stone. If you heavily weight prime/peak you could place Kobe, but LeBron's isn't finished yet (meaning to do so, you either have to underrate him by rating him to date, or potentially overrate him by projecting his career out).
If you're going with a single season comparison you could use any of the last few of LeBron's seasons, but to use this season you again run into the problem above.