After Scottie Pippen’s surprising comments stating that LeBron James, not his former teammate Michael Jordan, may be the best player to ever play the game, more people are now publicly disagreeing with Pippen. The most recent of which were Hall of Fame players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Isiah Thomas, who both said Pippen’s opinion on the situation isn’t as accurate as Pippen thinks it is. Abdul-Jabbar said Pippen is wrong in both assessments of who is the greatest player of all-time as well as who is the greatest scorer of all-time. He even released a letter on his website this past Tuesday citing his thoughts on the debate.
In the letter he named Wilt Chamberlain, not Jordan, the best scorer of all-time and also compared Bill Russell to Jordan, saying Pippen needed to take a better look at history before giving the award for greatest player to Jordan or James. Thomas had his take on the subject as well. He said he thinks James has a chance to be as good as Jordan was, but doesn’t think he will ever eclipse him. Thomas added the fact that James hasn’t accomplished anything yet as it pertains to championships and still has a ways to go to catch up to Jordan and his six titles.
Although I somewhat agree with the opinions of these two HOFers, I don’t fully buy what they’re selling. I think Jordan is the best basketball player ever. This could be because I actually watched Jordan in his prime and the only time I ever saw guys like Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Magic Johnson was via highlight films. I may be showing some ignorance here, but that’s what makes these kind of debates fun. Everyone has their own opinion of who is the best player in any given sport and the answers are based on multiple criteria. Most old school guys go with the old school players. Most young people go with the modern players. That’s just how it is.
That being said, I’m not going to go crazy and say James is the greatest ever or he will eventually be the best ever because it’s just not true. James isn’t even the best player in basketball right now (Yes, I’m giving that title to Kobe Bryant). I don’t think he will ever be the best ever. Like Thomas said, James may get close to Jordan and may even match him when it comes to championships and career statistics, but there will never be another Jordan. Jordan is basketball. I would venture to say that if you asked 100 people the first player that comes to their mind when someone says the word basketball, over 90 percent would say Jordan.
That in itself isn’t enough to say Jordan is the greatest player ever. I’m not that naive. But it does make Jordan’s case that much better. He revolutionized basketball and there was nobody ever quite like him that ever played the game. There are a handful of guys that are always in the conversation when talking about the best ever including Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain and Magic. But when you consider the entire body of work and what each of those players meant to the game and how they changed the game, you have to go with Jordan.
It’s tough to compare these guys because not all of them played the same position and most played in different eras. But when you look at the era Jordan played in, he had much stiffer competition when it came to who he was playing against. Consider this, when Abdul-Jabbar and Chamberlain played there weren’t as many black players in the league as there were when Jordan played. And some of the best black players weren’t even playing in the NBA yet. Even though this may seem like I’m nitpicking, you at least have to give it some thought. I think when it’s all said and done, Jordan will still be the best ever. There may be guys that come close and maybe even some that match his accomplishments. But let’s face it, there is and always will be only one MJ. But just for fun, let’s compare some career numbers of a few of the all-time greats.
Michael Jordan – 30.1 ppg, 10 scoring titles, 6 NBA titles, 3rd all-time scoring rank
Wilt Chamberlain – 30.1 ppg, 7 scoring titles, 2 NBA titles, 4th all-time scoring rank
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 24.6 ppg, 2 scoring titles, 6 NBA titles, 1st all-time scoring rank
Bill Russell – 15.1 ppg, 22.5 rpg, 0 scoring titles, 11 NBA titles, 131st all-time scoring rank
Submitted by Steve Giles