Scottie Pippen’s love for LeBron James stinks of an MJ complex
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com May 27, 2011 9:06PM
Scottie Pippen (right) may be showing his insecurities about playing in the shadow of Michael Jordan during their years with the Bulls. | Sun-Times
PIP SPEAK: SCOTTIE BACKS OFF
After saying that LeBron James may be the best player of all time,
Scottie Pippen was initially defiant on Twitter when faced with criticism. But he backed off more throughout the day.
Updated: September 3, 2011 12:31AM
I get the premise.
The execution? That’s where Scottie Pippen lost me. And it sounds like I’m not the only one.
It was on ESPN’s ‘‘Mike & Mike in the Morning’’ radio show Friday morning that Pippen was asked about LeBron James, less than 12 hours after James helped the Miami Heat eliminate the Bulls in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals at the United Center.
‘‘Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game, 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,’’ Pippen said on the show. ‘‘You have to be on your Ps and Qs 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.’’
The Pippen interview was an eye-opener across the country. In Chicago, it was all but blasphemy, not because Pippen was falling over himself to compliment the one player who inflicted the most pain on the city over the last week, but because he compared the ringless fingers of James to those of one Jordan, the keeper of the rings — six of them — and the reason Pippen also has six of them.
On the surface, it was just a bad comparison because what James does on the court is so much different than Jordan’s game. I’ve never understood the comparison of James to Jordan. James’ game has always been more Magic than Michael, just because of his passing ability, unselfishness and ability to get his teammates involved.
Here’s the underlying assumption of why Pippen said it: jealousy. It was Robin yanking on Batman’s cape years after the crime-fighting days were over.
Pippen tried to explain himself on his Twitter account shortly after the radio comments.
First he fired off this classic: “For all of you that don’t know, I played the game you keep watching and cheering.’’
OK, Scottie, we get it. You played, we didn’t. You’re somehow smarter than us. As if no athlete has pulled that card out before.
Then there was, ‘‘Don’t get me wrong, MJ was and is the greatest. But LeBron could by all means get to his level someday.’’
He could, but that takes multiple championships. And even if James and the rest of the ‘‘Heatles’’ have six title runs in them, last summer’s ‘‘Decision’’ and the negative perception of James — fair or unfair — ensures that the number of rings would be all he and Jordan have in common.
Heck, even if Kobe Bryant is able to get one more ring to tie Jordan, the comparisons between the two shouldn’t be close. Bryant played Robin to Shaquille O’Neal for his first three rings. And then when jealousy overtook Bryant and led to ‘‘The Big Aristotle’’ taking his talents to South Beach, it was Kobe who whined until the Lakers hand-delivered Pau Gasol to him.
Jordan was an assassin on the court. His will to win has no comparison. None.
Yes, he needed Pippen to become a champion, but maybe not to the degree that Pippen obviously thinks.
Look, there was a lot of truth in Pippen’s assessment of James. He is the ‘‘complete package.’’ And he is now a ‘‘man on a mission.’’
But Jordan’s level is unattainable — not just because of his talents but because of the no-blood, no-foul era Jordan played in.
No one should know that more than Scottie Pippen, the man who sat in the foxhole all those games with Jordan.
‘‘I’ve never seen a player that can dominate a game the way LeBron James can,’’ Pippen said later in the same radio interview. ‘‘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.’’
Jealousy can be an ugly thing.