For many, LeBron James cemented his status as the all-time greatest men’s basketball player when he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the NBA’s all-time scoring charts in February.
That’s not the case for Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, and it’s not because he believes his former Chicago Bulls teammate Michael Jordan is the GOAT.
“LeBron James is going to be the greatest statistical guy to ever play basketball,” Pippen said Stacey King’s Gimme the Hot Sauce podcast.. “There is no comparison. none. Does that make him the best player to ever play this game? I leave that up for debate because I don’t think there is a great player because our team is a team game. A player can’t do it.
“I saw Michael Jordan before I played for the Bulls; you saw him play; he was a terrible player, terrible to play with. He was always one on one, he was shooting bad shots and, suddenly we became a team and we started winning and everyone forgot who he was.
Pippen was drafted fifth overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1987 NBA draft and then quickly drafted to the Bulls in a draft night trade.
In the three years prior to Pippen’s arrival, the Bulls never missed the playoffs. Jordan was voted an All-Star starter in all three seasons — most notably in 1987 when he led the league with 37.1 points per game.
As for Pippen, however, Jordan wasn’t able to get the Bulls past the first round of the postseason until Pippen’s rookie year, and didn’t win a championship until 1990, a year after Pippen was first voted an All-Star. The two would win six championships together.
It’s also true that Jordan was the most efficient version of himself when he played alongside Pippen. In his first three years, Jordan only shot 50% from the field once. In his first five years with Pippen, he never shot less than 50% from the field.
Does that mean Jordan was a terrible player before Pippen? No — that doesn’t necessarily mean that Pippen made Jordan a better teammate, at least no more than Phil Jackson or any of his other teammates. What’s not up for debate is that the Bulls have been extremely successful as Jordan and Pippen played together as a dominant duo.
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