At the ripe age of 26, LeBron James has won two MVP awards, he has two NBA Finals appearances, several All-Star berths, and his Miami Heat team will be the odds-on favorite to win the NBA title next week as they prepare to take on the Dallas Mavericks. He also has zero NBA titles.
At the same age, NBA legend Michael Jordan had just as many titles, just as many MVP awards, and his Bulls weren't even the favorites (despite home court advantage) as they prepared to take on the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals.
All this was enough for Jordan teammate and guy-who-should-know Scottie Pippen to toss this out, while appearing on ESPN Radio Friday morning:
"Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play the game. I may go so far as saying LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game."
Whoa, guy. Seriously?
(And is he actually wrong?)
No, James hasn't surpassed Jordan in any meaningful way yet. He hasn't won jack, in comparison to MJ's six titles. He hasn't simultaneously won a Defensive Player of the Year in the same season he led the NBA in scoring, though that might be Dwight Howard's fault more than anything else. And because James joined the Miami Heat midway through his career, he'll never be looked at as the singular drive behind any championships he earns. After all, when Jordan won his first ring in 1991, Pippen hadn't even made an All-Star team by then.
But parsed correctly, tossing in a "might be" before "the greatest player to ever play the game," and following that with a "when all is said and done," Pip has to be taken seriously, here. James is 26, and he might be the greatest player to ever play the game when all is said and done. A lot of us have felt that for years.
Pippen, as you'd guess, has been put on the defensive. Fans are getting after him on his Twitter account, and earlier on Friday he posted this:
Ah, Scottie, you don't need to be that defensive. You may be the most versatile defender in NBA history, but you don't need to darken the mood, here. You just need to brighten, and clarify. By any reasonable standard, be they rings or Player Efficiency Ratings or "I seen 'em"-recollections, Jordan is the best ever.
But LeBron James? He has the talent and the time to surpass him. And for those of us, "watching and cheering," that obsessed over every one of Jordan's minutes in his prime? We can understand that.
It's on you now, LeBron. It's not on Scottie. Because he could be right.
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