FanDuel - WFBC

May 28, 2011

Pippen: LeBron's Better Than Michael: "Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play in the game, but I may go as far as to say that LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game." -- Scottie Pippen on ESPN's Mike & Mike in the Morning Friday

posted by rcade to basketball at 12:38 PM - 26 comments

One of the callers had a great line afterwards: "If Michael has another acceptance speech coming up Pippen's in trouble."

posted by rcade at 12:39 PM on May 28

Is it just me or does it seem like american sports culture has become so obsessed with putting a great athlete's career into perspective that we jump to conclusions? Why can't we let the process play out?

I'm not saying that these conversations can't be fun, but sometimes I feel like people put way too much stock into them. If LeBron has a spinal injury tomorrow, the debate is over. If he wins 8 rings, it is over. But either way, we just won't know until he is done playing, when we can assess it fairly objectively. We're working with incomplete data here.

Not trying to say this can't be a good sports debate, but it seems overdone in American sports now, particularly with the "who is the next Jordan/better than Jordan" debate. Am I crazy on this?

posted by brainofdtrain at 02:20 AM on May 29

I think it's just another effect of the 24 hour news cycle. With Espn1, 2, 3 and who knows what else, at some point they need to fill all those hours of programming with something. What better way than pseudo-comparisons of skill that allow you to play old sports clips?

posted by jeremias at 07:42 AM on May 29

Pippen is just trying to make himself look better because Jordan gets all the credit for the Bulls' championships and success.

posted by dyams at 10:32 AM on May 29

Why does it have to be that complicated? Maybe he just thinks LeBron's better.

posted by rcade at 12:35 PM on May 29

Pippen is just trying to make himself look better because Jordan gets all the credit for the Bulls' championships and success.

Rings Pippen won with Jordan - 6
Rings Pippen won without Jordan - 0

I can't imagine why anyone would give Jordan more credit for the Bulls' championships than Pippen...

posted by MeatSaber at 12:58 PM on May 29

Why does it have to be that complicated? Maybe he just thinks LeBron's better.

Maybe. But just the fact that without Jordan there would basically be no reason to even mention Pippen, he (Pippen) shouldn't consider anyone being better than Michael. It's about respect for the greatest player ever who Pippen rode to make his own name and career.

The championships speak for themselves. Nothing against LeBron.

posted by dyams at 01:15 PM on May 29

It's about respect for the greatest player ever who Pippen rode to make his own name and career.

Pippen's never allowed to think that someone else is better than Michael Jordan or else he's showing Jordan disrespect?

You can think that Pippen "rode" Jordan, but has LeBron James had a teammate as good as Pippen prior to this season? Jordan didn't win those rings by himself.

posted by rcade at 01:22 PM on May 29

Fair point rcade, but at the same time I recently read that Pippen wasn't an all-star during the Bulls 1st title run, so technically if the criteria is championships relative to other stars on your team, LeBron basically conceded the argument when he took his talents to South Beach (Jordan 1, LeBron 0). Heck, even in Cleveland Mo Williams was an all-star. If you argue that was b/c of LeBron that's fine, but then why doesn't Jordan get credit for elevating Scottie's game, especially when Jordan was an all-star before Pippen (If I remember correctly).

My point is this: Would Scottie have developed into the player he was without the maniac known as MJ on his back everyday? Who knows, maybe, maybe not. I think the "Jordan had Scottie" pushback is valid, but people also tend to discount that MJ was certifiably insane about winning & to be on his team demanded every ounce of effort (I've heard Kerr talk about this). I think at best the amount of "help" they gave each other cancels out.

That said, could Jordan have won 5 more without Pippen, the one who was a top 50 guy in his own right? Doubtful obviously, but at that point we're back at guesswork (maybe the Bulls trade for another player, etc etc.) To me any argument that values rings LeBron cannot win, at least not yet.

Which brings me back to my 1st post (which I kind of just admittedly contradicted a bit): until LeBron's career is over, we won't know, so why the obsession? My gut (where the truthiness is) tells me that the media wants to move past Jordan more than anyone (the guy's not playing anymore, & not compelling to the next generation of fans), & they want to anoint someone to create a mythology for the next generation.

posted by brainofdtrain at 06:00 PM on May 29

One last thing: In a way, this whole argument is especially cruel to LeBron, because for all his faults it is clear that he doesn't see winning as the only reason for existence (like MJ), which is a healthier way to live. It also probably makes catching MJ harder. It is odd, sportsfans hate LeBron for not being insane.

posted by brainofdtrain at 06:04 PM on May 29

In a way, this whole argument is especially cruel to LeBron, because for all his faults it is clear that he doesn't see winning as the only reason for existence (like MJ)

Why do you think he decided to become public enemy #1 and give up his place as the only star on the team, if it wasn't to win? I think winning's pretty heavy on his mind, given the fact he gave up a little money and some spotlight in order to play on a stacked team.

posted by dfleming at 09:33 PM on May 29

Rings Pippen won with Jordan - 6
Rings Pippen won without Jordan - 0

Rings Jordan won without Pippen - 0

I could see where Pippen would be partial to Lebron's game. They do a lot of the same things well.

posted by tron7 at 09:46 PM on May 29

My feeling is Pippen, without Jordan, is a good player. Jordan, however, made everyone on those Bulls teams great. He was the most dominant player, possibly ever, who intimidated everyone on the court. Plus, he stayed with the Bulls in order to win those championships, which earns him major points in my book. LeBron can go on to win several championships, but jumping ship to have to hook up with two other all-stars will never get him the same respect as he would have achieved had he stuck around and possibly won a title or two in Cleveland.

The fact remains, James is a incredible player. But Pippen, having never stepped on the court with him, should always have Jordan's back when it comes to discussing the better player. I never liked Pippen and always thought he was an ass. No matter how much he thinks of James, he should always keep Jordan on the top of the heap because of the incredible success he led the team to.

posted by dyams at 10:58 PM on May 29

Game on the line, assuming both players in their prime, who would you give the ball - Jordan or LeBron?

Unless LeBron isn't currently in his prime there's only 1 correct answer to that question, and that answer isn't LeBron. He's not even the first option in crunch time on his current team, and it was apparent he couldn't take the "heat" as the top gun in Cleveland.

I could see where Pippen would be partial to Lebron's game. They do a lot of the same things well.

If by that you mean bad mouthing ex-teammates and coaches I see your point.

Hope Pippen got the attention he was seeking ... what a dickhead.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:11 AM on May 30

Pippen's never allowed to think that someone else is better than Michael Jordan or else he's showing Jordan disrespect?

Sure, if Lebron ever actually is. It's just a silly argument at this point because Michael Jordan is in a league of his own. At the end of Lebron's careers if he has carried some teams on his back and had some playoff performances for the ages, then Pippen and anyone else can make that argument. But, right now, it is hard to take it as anything but a jab at Jordan.

posted by bperk at 12:38 AM on May 30

"Is it just me or does it seem like american sports culture has become so obsessed with putting a great athlete's career into perspective that we jump to conclusions?"

Happens a lot here, sure, but nobody in Europe has been speculating about Messi, Nadal, etc?

posted by Uncle Toby at 08:53 AM on May 30

LeBron can go on to win several championships, but jumping ship to have to hook up with two other all-stars will never get him the same respect as he would have achieved had he stuck around and possibly won a title or two in Cleveland.

As great of a player LeBron is, no one wanted to come to Cleveland to play with him which is why he opted to leave. Cleveland just wasn't appealing to any of the free agents availiable.

posted by BornIcon at 09:10 AM on May 30

Since it's just what Pippen 'thinks' and there won't be any way to compare until Lebron's career is over (hope he takes a year or two off at his peak to make the comparison more meaningful), I'll tell you what I think... I think Oscar Robertson was better than either of them! For comparison purposes, the Big O averaged a Triple Double for an entire season during his illustrious career. And his career stats? Quite the comparison, eh? I know this will rile a bunch of Jordan lovers, most of who never saw Oscar play. But that's ok too, this is just what 'I' think! Doesn't mean a thing, won't change anything either. But speaking strictly of Jordan or Lebron, who would you pick if you were starting a team? I'll take Michael...

posted by mitchigan at 09:47 AM on May 30

Why do you think he decided to become public enemy #1 and give up his place as the only star on the team, if it wasn't to win? I think winning's pretty heavy on his mind, given the fact he gave up a little money and some spotlight in order to play on a stacked team.

At the risk of sounding crass dfleming, have you heard about the kind of people who spend time on the beaches down there? Not trying to make LeBron sound like a jerk or anything, but I could guess at other possible reasons why he would like to live there.

Regardless, you make a good point. I think winning is part of it. To clarify, I was referring to how LBJ treats people/teammates. MJ, from what i understand, was so obsessed with winning that he wasn't above verbally undressing teammates in a spat of anger if they weren't producing (a more recent example of this was his induction speech-one of the most classless things a great athlete has ever done). LBJ, for all his faults, doesn't want to win so bad that he is destructive to people he is around.

Funny thing is, I'm not a LeBron fan, but I respect that he isn't so obsessed with winning that he treats his teammates like crap to the extent Jordan did at times.

posted by brainofdtrain at 01:45 PM on May 30

Sure, if Lebron ever actually is.

LeBron has been in the league eight years. That's enough time to start assessing whether a player is one of the greatest to play the game. We didn't wait until Jordan's career was over to start having that discussion about him, and it's not too soon to look at LeBron for such superlatives.

Championships are great, but a player can be one of the greats of his sport without them.

posted by rcade at 06:13 PM on May 30

But Pippen, having never stepped on the court with him, should always have Jordan's back when it comes to discussing the better player.

That seems pretty arbitrary to me. Pippen has a brain. He should be allowed to use it. If he sees a player he thinks is better than Jordan, I don't think he should keep his mouth shut out of some unwritten teammate code.

posted by rcade at 06:17 PM on May 30

Championships are great, but a player can be one of the greats of his sport without them.

I think that's true, but can a basketball player be considered greater than Jordan without one? I wouldn't think so. And, that's what Pippen said, not that Lebron could be one of the greatest, but that he already is. Jordan had great stats, MVP awards and a whole ton of championships plus games for the ages. Jordan led the league in scoring more years than Lebron has even been in the league. It's just not a reasonable comparison yet. I haven't heard a good argument for Lebron as the greatest player ever that relies solely on what he has done to date. It's all about what he has the potential to do in his career.

posted by bperk at 08:24 PM on May 30

If he sees a player he thinks is better than Jordan, I don't think he should keep his mouth shut out of some unwritten teammate code.

Sure, if you think that's all there is to it. I don't. I've always thought Pippen was a jerk, and feel this is him just trying to stick it to Jordan in his own little way. It's obvious you think James is the better player, rcade, and time seems to have diminished your memory about just how critical Jordan was to the championships he led Chicago to. I'm not even a big Jordan fan, but I still don't see any player being better.

posted by dyams at 08:09 AM on May 31

I don't know anything about Pippen off the court. Given Jordan's score-settling acceptance speech, he doesn't seem like the nicest person in the world.

posted by rcade at 10:42 AM on May 31

It's hard to believe that Jordan was as beloved as he has been. He seems like a jerk.

posted by bperk at 02:45 PM on May 31

If by that you mean bad mouthing ex-teammates and coaches I see your point.

When has either James or Pippen done this? Nothing comes to mind. Do you consider this bad mouthing Jordan?

posted by tron7 at 04:50 PM on May 31

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