The NBA Corner: Scottie Pippen Must Suffer From Dementia
Dementia is defined as "a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior."
Unfortunately, it appears that Scottie Pippen suffers from this scary disease. How else would anyone say this:
"Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play in the game, but I may go as far to say LeBron James is probably the greatest player to ever play the game. Not only can he score at will, but he keeps everybody involved. You have to be on your Ps and Qs because everybody is a threat to score when he’s on the floor. Not only that, LeBron James will dominate the game on the offensive end and he’s able to do it on the defensive end as well. He can get in those passing lanes and dominate the game."
That's interesting. And by interesting, I mean insane and I'm vexed over this.
Pippen claims Jordan is the best "scorer" of all time, so I guess that equals his claim that LeBron can "score at will." For the record, here are Jordan's scoring accomplishments:
- 10 scoring titles
- NBA record for highest career regular season average (30.1 ppg)
- NBA record for highest career playoff average (33.4 ppg)
- Most career points in NBA All-Star Game history (262 points)
LeBron has won one scoring title. He's got some work to do if he's going to get to 10. But he did pass Jordan in one category: James now has the highest ppg average in NBA All-Star history. That's the end of the argument right there.
But Pippen didn't deny Jordan's greatness in putting the ball in the hoop. He said that James "keeps everyone involved," and there's some truth to this since LeBron's career assist total is 7.0 compared to Jordan's 5.3. Upon entering the league, everyone agreed that LeBron has the court vision and the awareness to distribute the ball like Magic Johnson, arguably the greatest point guard in history. Even if Jordan did win a title by passing out of double-team to a wide open Steve Kerr (1996), he was never a great passer. A good or very good passer, but never great and LeBron has shown the ability to be a great passer. He doesn't do it on a nightly basis but he does have the ability.
We'll let that slide.
The most egregious part of the quote comes at the end:
"James is able to do it on the defensive end as well. He can get into those passing lanes and dominate the game."
Can James dominate on the defensive end? Yes. Now. This is a new phenomenon for him. I saw him in person in high school and he looked like a father playing steady PG in a game at a picnic. He never played D because he never needed to. When he came into the NBA, his defense was atrocious. Just awful. Even a few years into his career, he was no more than a decent defender.
The thing that changed it all was the Team USA experience. James was able to learn how to play defense from Coach K and, even more importantly, he saw how hard Kobe Bryant worked on his game, specifically on the defensive end. There's a famous story that one morning while they were preparing for the Olympics, LeBron was walking to breakfast just after waking up and runs into Kobe, who is dripping with sweat. LeBron asks what Kobe's been doing and learns that Bryant has already been working out for a few hours and is planning on doing more. When asked what he is doing, James responds, "Going to breakfast." There's the difference. From that day forward, LeBron committed himself to improving his game, namely as a defender. The lockdown that you saw against Derrick Rose could not and would not have happened in 2007.
Regarding the passing lanes comment, Pippen should know better. He is considered one of - if not the - greatest perimeter defenders in history and he knows that working the passing lanes do not make you a strong defender. Hell, Allen Iverson played the passing lanes like Darrelle Revis, jumping routes and intercepting passes that turned into easy layups. Anyone that has seen Iverson play one second of defense will NEVER claim he was a dominant defender. But yes, LeBron does attack the passing lanes and you always need to look behind you on a breakaway because you know James will be swooping in for a ridiculous rejection.
So, obviously that proves he's better than Jordan, right?
Michael Jordan was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, the same year he won the MVP award and he won the steals title three times. Before you claim that James is only 25 and has many years ahead of him, Jordan won DPOTY in his fourth season so it's not like he waited a decade. Also, look at the competition. James plays in a league with about 3 centers (Howard, Bynum and Perkins) while Jordan played in an era with the likes of Ewing, Olajuwon, Robinson, Rodman, Eaton and Mourning. And Pippen. The competition was tougher, not easier.
If we gave LeBron credit for being a better passer based on stats, don't we also have to give the nod of steals ("passing lanes") to Jordan based on stats? James has a career average of 1.7 steals per game; Jordan finished with an average of 2.3, over a half-a-steal per game more and he even averaged 3.2 spg in that jaw-dropping year of 1987 - '88.
But surely LeBron blocks more shots, right? We see the highlights all the time. No one remembers Jordan blocking anyone's shot. As fate would have it, they have exactly the same career average of blocks per game at 0.8.
In short, LeBron is a great all-around player but his career does not even compare to Kobe Bryant's yet, let alone Jordan's. Honestly, I think Pippen, since he is defending what he said, really is suffering from dementia or some other form of mental illness. So sad.
Or, maybe he is just playing around and when word gets back to Jordan, they'll both have a good laugh at the absurdity. I can picture it now...