I take a lot of long road trips during the summer to see friends and family for two reasons: 1) I have the time to do it 2) long trips give me time to think. Driving down south a few days ago, I flipped to a local sports radio show hearing the following quote from former Chicago Bulls player Scottie Pippen:
"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."
Scottie’s declaration almost spun me off 65 south into Nickajack Lake. Really Scottie…THIS? I started having flashbacks of bad memories. Such as the time I found out there wasn’t a Santa Claus. Such as when my grandmother introduce me to castor oil from a beat up brown paper sack to cure a cold. Such as Digger Phelps matching ties with highlighters and getting his swerve on pregame. Bad memories.
LeBron fans, fair warning. What I have to say is as definitive as being dunked on by Jordan Crawford at a skills camp, but I’m going to say it and I’m not backing down:
LeBron James shouldn’t be compared to Michael Jordan right now because he can’t even hold a candle to Scottie Pippen.
I think Scottie Pippen suffers from No. 2 player inferiority complex. Many of the great ones have had it in NBA history. Kareem had it with Magic until he retired, Jason Kidd had it in Dallas with the other two J’s, Kobe had it until Shaq left, Russell Westbrook might be the next to have it if he’s not careful. It’s difficult playing in the shadow of someone as great or greater than you, specially when the attention you should have been getting all along is lacking.
While one could argue that he was unbiased in making his statement last week, Pippen should have remembered that he is a six-time NBA champion, a seven-time NBA All-Star, an eight-time NBA All-Defensive first-team selection, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner, and a Hall of Famer.
Yeah, I know Pippen’s not Jordan either. No one is Jordan. In fact, I make a motion that we should start calling Jordan “Template.” You know, the one the aliens from another planet would ask for if they were looking for an example of a basketball player. Kobe by the time he’s done may still be only hovering at the entrance to the gated community that holds Jordan Manor, Russell House, Bird and Magic Church and Abdul-Jabbar Lane.
I think Scottie went to bed the night he channeled Nostrodamus for the press and lay there for a moment remembering how good he was. I think Scottie still thinks he hasn’t gotten enough shine for the success of the Bulls during the 90’s. I think his statement was more about Template and less about LeBron. I think someone should have asked Scottie, if they haven’t already whether they think LeBron is better than HIM.
If someone told me I could have a house party for the greatest NBA small forwards of all time with invite criteria being accomplishments and rings, LeBron James would be outside at the kiddie table. It’s not because I hate LeBron James, it’s because I couldn’t in good conscious have anyone at the big boy table who hasn’t earned it.
For me to have LeBron at the big boy table would be a slap to the face to guys like Alex English, Dominique Wilkins, Elgin Baylor, James Worthy, Rick Barry, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, Julius Ervin and Pippen. With the exception of English, Wilkins and Baylor, all of the guys in this list would eat first because they have won at minimum an NBA title. Picture LeBron, left with a hard muffin and the burnt edges of casserole dish and you get my point.
LeBron has not won a championship in the NBA. Let that sink in. Hell, he hasn’t even won a GAME in the Finals. Until this changes, (and whether it will in the next two weeks is not a certainty) I have no choice but to put him at the kiddie table with Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Take heart, at least he’s not on the sidewalk playing jacks with Penny Hardaway, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, all of whom at one point in their career were the next Template.
The larger issue for fans like me who watch the NBA now is the fact that we remember a time when people had to actually EARN their crown. Yeah, the late '80s and '90s were a while ago. You know, when Mars Blackmon and Template were hanging out, when you could legitimately name a team “The Bad Boys,” when players could actually shoot, and before Dippin Dots replaced Bomb Pops as the frozen treat for kids under the age of 12.
LeBron James is my grandmother’s castor oil- shoved down our throat, told it will be good for you, in a wrinkled old brown sack that you can’t find fast enough to get rid of. He’s been marketed to us as the second-coming when the first thing that should be coming is the decency of winning an NBA title.
I had no problems with LeBron taking his talents to South Beach. He’s one hell of a player. I want to see him and the Heat compete because I think it’s good for the league. I want to see him do well, because I think he’s a good dude. Unfortunately, I knew that when LeBron got back to the Finals, that I would be hearing the same tired Template vs. next New Template comparison. As if Dallas vs. Miami can’t sell by itself?
King James isn’t even the King of the Heat. This title belongs to Dwayne Wade. James could have even been the King of Queens if he would have signed with the Nets this offseason. Right now if he loses the Finals given all of the attention this season, he stands to be King of the Hype Machine, Prince of the NBA and Serf to every other power forward who’s won something.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it won’t be near as tough as it will be if King James ain’t Ring James by the time mid June rolls around.