Read the text of Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction speech to understand why Scottie Pippen might want to go out of his way to tweak his former teammate by saying LeBron James has surpassed Michael Jordan.
During championship years with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan had a habit of creating reasons to feel slighted, inviting the sympathy of the masses and wallowing in self-pity.
So it’s not Pippen dissing Jordan that sends the cringe-factor meter soaring to Curb Your Enthusiasm levels, it’s the ridiculous opinion that James is the greatest basketball player of all-time. He was no better than third-best in the NBA Finals, ranking behind Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade.
Here are a dozen players from NBA history better than LeBron:
Bill Russell: He won back-to-back national titles at the University of San Francisco and won 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons. A five-time MVP, Russell remarkably wasn’t the first player chosen in the NBA draft. Sihugo Green, a 6-foot-2 guard from Duquesne who played for six teams in nine NBA seasons, went first, Russell second.
Michael Jordan: A six-time NBA Finals MVP, Jordan doesn’t get enough credit for his extraordinary defensive work.
Magic Johnson: The most aptly named superstar in sports history, Magic is still smiling, 20 years after being diagnosed with HIV. The joy Magic exhibited playing the game was contagious and nobody was ever better at setting up teammates.
Wilt Chamberlain: The Stilt’s skills somehow didn’t translate as smoothly to championships as did those of Russell, who had far better teammates and a better knack for inspiring them. Still, Wilt was basketball’s most dominant force ever.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The fluid, graceful 7-foot-2 skyhook artist was named MVP six times and won six NBA championships.
Hakeem Olajuwon: The Dream had the best all-time spin moves, ran the floor like a guard and was considered by teammates as nice a superstar as ever walked the planet.
Shaquille O’Neal: The Big Aristotle won four championships, and although he couldn’t co-exist with Kobe Bryant, he did get along well with Wade.
Tim Duncan: The Big Fundamental’s highlight tape is best played to classical music. He earned NBA all-defensive honors in each of his first 13 seasons and has won four titles.
Larry Bird: The Hick from French Lick talked trash on the court and backed it up with a phenomenal shooting touch, great passing radar and serious toughness.
Jerry West: The best shooter and defensive guard of his era when known as Mr. Clutch, he became the best general manager of the post-Red Auerbach executive when known as The Logo.
Oscar Robertson: The only player to average a triple-double for an entire season, The Big 0 advanced the cause of player rights by suing the league, a key move toward free agency.
Bob McAdoo: Unless you grew up in Rochester, N.Y., watching Braves games on a fuzzy Buffalo station with the antenna turned just so, you’ll never fully appreciate the greatness of the player taken one spot behind top pick Larue Martin in the 1972 draft. Think a stronger version of Kevin Durant.