Chicago Not to go all Jack Buck on you, but like most people in Chicago, I still can’t believe what I just saw Thursday night with the Bulls blowing a 12-point lead in three minutes to lose the game and Eastern Conference finals to the Miami Heat.
It was while still trying to process all that Friday morning when I couldn’t believe what I just heard.
Scottie Pippen went on WMVP-AM 1000 to make this statement comparing LeBron James and Michael Jordan:
“Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game,” Pippen said. “But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game because he is so potent offensively that not only can he score at will, but he keeps everybody involved.
“You have to be on your P’s and Q’s on defense. No guy on the basketball court is not a threat to score with LeBron James out there. Not only will LeBron dominate from the offensive end as well, but he’s also doing it on the defensive end, which really makes him the complete package. He’s able to get in those passing lanes, shoot those gaps and create transition opportunities where he is pretty much unstoppable.”
Headline: Robin disses Batman.
The last person you would expect to have such a short memory is the guy who enjoyed such a long run in Chicago winning championships alongside Jordan. Let Pat Riley make that claim. Or Charles Barkley. But a guy on the Bulls’ payroll? Yet Pippen wasn’t done with the basketball blasphemy.
“I’ve never seen a player that can dominate a game the way LeBron James can,” Pippen added. “He don’t always have to score. He makes plays for other guys. But when the game is on the line and you need a shot to be made, he’s going to make that play. He’s shown that throughout this series that he can make big shots.
“I think there has always been a knock on him that he don’t make the big shots down the stretch. Well, I think they can put that behind him now. He’s a shot-maker. And right now he’s a man on a mission.”
Never seen a player that can dominate a game the way LeBron James can?
Really? Never during the Bulls’ first or second 3-peat?
As supremely gifted as James is — and, goodness, athletically he has no peer — I don’t even know yet if I would rank him ahead of Kobe Bryant on the all-time list of greatest players ever to play the game. It’s still all about the titles.
Beam up some reality, Scottie. James gave us every reason to believe he is the best player in the NBA with his all-around domination of the Bulls the past four games. He shut down Derrick Rose late. He ran his team when necessary, assembling an assist-to-turnover ratio that would make any point guard proud. He took over as a scorer too, just about every time the Heat needed a big shot.
He reminded many of Jordan, yes, as easy as he made the game look.
But last I checked, James’ fingers are still bare. And Jordan has six championships and a statue at the United Center as part of his legacy. James has a Finals appearance and a nice playoff run going. Beat the Mavericks and then let’s start putting his greatness in historical context with His Airness.
Even Pippen seemed to sense how ridiculous he must have sounded because, later Friday, he attempted to unring the bell on his Twitter account.
Pippen tweeted: “Don’t get me wrong, MJ was and is the greatest. But LeBron could by all means get to his level someday.”
That’s a different argument — and different than what Pippen originally said.
If anybody was to acknowledge that James needs actually to win at least one title and likely more before anybody can justifiably say he “may be the greatest player to ever play the game,” you would think it would be Jordan’s sidekick. You would think it would be a former teammate whose career and legacy was forever enhanced because of Jordan.
You would be wrong.
Some Bulls ambassador.