For many, LeBron James cemented his status as the greatest men’s basketball player in history when he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in February.
That’s not the case for Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, and it’s also not because he thinks his former Chicago Bulls teammate Michael Jordan is the GOAT.
“LeBron James is going to be the greatest stat man to ever play the game of basketball,” Pippen said on Stacey King’s “Gimme the Hot Sauce” podcast. “There is no comparison. None. Does that make him the greatest player to ever play the game? I’ll 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” don’t do it
“I saw Michael Jordan before he went to play for the Bulls; you guys saw him play; he was a horrible player, he was horrible to play with. He was all one-on-one, he was shooting bad shots and, all of a sudden, we became a team and we start winning, and everyone forgot who he was.”
Pippen was selected fifth overall in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics, and then quickly was sent to the Bulls in a late-night trade.
In the three years prior to Pippen’s arrival, the Bulls never missed the playoffs. Jordan was voted an All-Star starter all three seasons, most notably in 1987, when he led the league in scoring with 37.1 points per game.
According to Pippen, however, Jordan couldn’t get the Bulls past the first round of the postseason until Pippen’s rookie year, and he didn’t win a championship until 1990, the year after Pippen was voted the All-Star for the first time. The two would go on to win six championships together.
It’s also true that Jordan was the most efficient version of himself when playing alongside Pippen. In his first three years, Jordan shot 50% from the field just once. In his first five years playing with Pippen, he never shot below 50% from the field.
Does that mean Jordan was a horrible player before Pippen was? No, it doesn’t even necessarily mean that Pippen made Jordan a better teammate, at least not more than Phil Jackson or any of his other teammates. What is not disputed is that the Bulls had great success with Jordan and Pippen playing together as a dominant duo.
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