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They Said It

They Said It: Scottie Pippen says LeBron James may be “greatest player” ever

“Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play in the game, but I may go as far as to say LeBron James is the greatest player to ever play the game because he’s so potent offensively. Not only can he score at will, but he keeps everybody involved. No guy on the basketball court is not a threat to score when LeBron James is out there.” — Scottie Pippen, NBA hall of famer

Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

Those are the words which came out of Scottie Pippen’s mouth this morning on ESPN’s Mike & Mike In the Morning radio show. When asked how great LeBron can be and if he can challenge Michael Jordan for the top spot all-time, Pippen said LeBron can, will and is.

While many people turn to the argument that MJ can’t be competed with unless a player comes up with six championship rings in his career, Pippen seemed to ignore that fact. Pippen said LeBron’s potent offensive ability and great defensive skills – he can guard any player on the court – make him the greatest player ever.

But already?

LeBron has been to the finals once, with Cleveland, and the San Antonio Spurs swept him. Now, he’s going to the finals for a second time; however, this time seems different because he has blown people’s minds in the playoffs with how many daggers he’s thrown. LeBron is a cold blooded killer this postseason as it seems he has stepped up every single game in the fourth quarter when he was needed. He may have two other superstars on his team in Miami, but he takes the finals shot – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

But, really, Pippen says this already?

It’s shocking to try to compare the two right now. You can’t compare James and Jordan in championship rings, as people have already done with Kobe Bryant and Jordan. They are playing in two different decades, and LeBron has two superstars on his team.

The third point – the two superstars to help him – shouldn’t be the main point of people who are arguing against what Pippen said. Pippen is a top 50 all-time NBA player, so he was just like a Dwayne Wade at Jordan’s side. The Bulls’ Dennis Rodman was no superstar, but he was a big part of some of Jordan’s championship teams. Phil Jackson might also be considered a superstar at Jordan’s side.

Phil, who is finally retiring this summer, is the greatest coach Americans have ever known in any sport. The Heat’s current coach, Erik Spoelstra, is no Phil Jackson – nobody in the league is similar to him.

So if you put the six together, the Bulls had Jordan, Pippen and Jackson; the Heat have James, Wade and Bosh. Still, it’s hard to compare.

However, I think it is worth acknowledging that no matter who won the MVP award this season in the NBA, Derrick Rose, LeBron is by far the best player. LeBron has won the MVP award twice, and Rose took it from him this season. Jordan, too, was the best player in the NBA, no question, when he played.

I do think LeBron has a chance to be No. 1 on the list of NBA all-timers, though. He’s going to need the aid of at least four championships – I don’t really think it’s realistic for a team to win six anymore; but if he gets to six then we can seriously have this discussion, and I believe I might have a preview for you… LeBron would be considered No. 1.

So imagine LeBron gets six, somehow. That eliminates that argument from the table, and we’d be deciding based on straight stats and player traits. So if championship weren’t in the discussion, we’d compare LeBron and MJ together having played seven seasons.

LeBron is 26 years old and has been in the league for seven years. MJ’s seventh season was in 1990-91, when the Bulls beat the Lakers for the NBA title. LeBron has a chance now to win a title in his seventh season too. LeBron has been to one NBA finals before his seventh season, and lost. MJ went to zero NBA finals before winning one in his seventh season. Michael Jordan was 28 when he won his first title. In his career, LeBron has averaged 27.7 points, 7 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game. In seven seasons, MJ averaged 31.5 points, 5.6 assists and 6 rebounds per game.

The stats are eerily similar. Jordan appears to be the better scorer, based on stats so far, but LeBron appears to be the better passer and rebounder. Also, Pippen already pointed out in his quote that Jordan is the best scorer all time. What Pippen is saying is LeBron is a better overall player.

Well, LeBron is definitely a better phyiscal specimen. He’s 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, but is about as quick, agile and speedy as anybody in the league. MJ was 6-foot-6, 216 pounds, and was the best athlete in the league during his time – although players like Shawn Kemp, Hakeem Olajuwon and Scottie Pippen were pretty athletic too. LeBron can guard any position on the floor and any player in the league. Jordan could guard the point guard, shooting guard and small forward, but I don’t know if he could guard power forwards and centers like LeBron can.

Both players are prolific, outstanding beasts. When you compare both players’ stats and physical traits and skills, you still can’t come up with a clear winner. Although some stats and physical traits and skills seem to favor LeBron, that still doesn’t determine who is the greatest of all time.

I think it can be safely summed up this way: When all is said and done, both players will be No. 1 and No. 2 all time in the NBA; all that has yet to be decided is who’s first and who’s second. I’m not going to say LeBron can’t surpass MJ as the NBA’s all-time greatest player – he absolutely can. I am going to say that when you compare these two – even the ages they won/might win their first titles – it’s like a mirror image.


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