Can we please shut up about the Pippen & Jordan thing now?
6/24/2011, 11:32 p.m.
It was as if Scottie Pippen had snatched the microphone and said "Beyonce had one of the greatest videos of all time."
For those who have been living under a rock lately, last week, Pippen said that Michael Jordan was the best offensive player ever but LeBron James could probably be the best player of all-time. "Michael Jordan may be the greatest scorer to ever play the game, but I may go as far to as to say that LeBron James is the greatest player to ever play the game."
A bit premature? Perhaps. But it's not as if James doesn't have the potential to be the greatest player ever. But members of the sports media and former athletes were quick to pounce in today's overreaction-fueled landscape.
"I think LeBron has the chance to eclipse Jordan if he improves his game," said Isiah Thomas to ESPN. "But where they are right now, you have to take Jordan as being the better player." Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wasn't as diplomatic with his words to Pippen.
"Your comments are off because of your limited perspective," said Abdul-Jabbar in an open letter obtained by the LA Times. "You obviously never saw Wilt Chamberlain play who undoubtedly was the greatest scorer this game has ever known. When did MJ ever average 50.4 points per game plus 25.7 rebounds?" In other words, Abdul-Jabbar was schooling the younger Pippen on even crowning Jordan the best offensive threat.
To his credit, James told The Sun Sentinel that he was "humbled" by the comparison, but he also said that "I got a long way to go to be mentioned as one of the all-time greats." He understands that it's all about potential and using it to your advantage. But try telling that to folks all over Twitter who engaged in a game of "check the scoreboard."
Some folks pointed to the nine all-defensive team accolades he received during his career as proof that he was more than just a scorer. Some pointed to the numerous crushing playoff losses that many teams suffered at the hands of Jordan's killer mid-range jumper. A few also pointed to Pippen's refusal to play the last seconds of Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals when he realized the eventual game-winning play wasn't drawn up for him.
But I also think we're blinded by the great marketing of Jordan to realize that he wasn't even the best defensive player on his own team (despite the praise). That would go to Pippen, whose wingspan allowed him to play some of the best individual defense the league had ever seen. Jordan's talent on defense was playing passing lanes, which allowed him to finish near the top in steals many seasons. But that doesn't mean Jordan was a slouch defensively, I'm just saying - in my eyes - Pippen was a better defender.
The discussion, which is filled with nuance, is lost among many people who are still wishing to "be like Mike" and can't fathom anyone ever being better than him. But it's going to happen. Whether you like it or not. Stop acting like baseball fans talking about Babe Ruth. You sound annoying. The one thing that people aren't taking from Abdul-Jabbar's open letter is that he's not crowning Jordan the best either. To paraphrase the rapper Nas, he's saying "ain't no best" when discussing the greatest players in NBA history.
Abdul-Jabbar is also accusing Pippen of doing the same thing his detractors are doing: coming from a "limited perspective."
Can we just end this discussion now?