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In this scenario, Wade’s “sidekick,” his “Scottie Pippen,” is one of the most talented basketball players of all time, LeBron James. Initially, this is surprising; LeBron James, THE LeBron James, the Chosen One, the King – HE’S the Scottie Pippen of this team?
The comparison is a better fit than you might think. LeBron’s detractors have been calling him “Scottie Pippen” disparagingly all year, because he decided to come to Miami and join Wade’s Heat. On the other hand, I’m calling James “Scottie Pippen” because, although James is substantially more talented, their skillsets are nevertheless quite similar. (Honestly, this is not meant as an insult at all.)
Pippen’s first role on the Bulls was as a wing defender; he could lock down anyone from the 1 to the 4 – so can James. Pippen’s other roles as a part of the Bulls included ball-handling (like James), distribution (like James), and a little scoring; he often played point-forward in the Bulls’ scheme.
Currently, James is trying to be a lead scorer on the Heat: he led them in scoring in the regular season and the Heat ran a lot of isolation plays through him early on. This led to some offensive challenges, since neither Wade nor James had established himself as the undisputed leader.
Even late in the Playoffs, it wasn’t fully clear who the leader was. Indeed, throughout the first three rounds of competition, James played exceptionally well, generally outperforming Wade offensively and defensively. In the Finals, however, Wade took over, averaging 26.5 PPG to James’s 17.8.
So what is LeBron’s role on the Heat? Should he take a backseat to Wade, limit his shot selection and just operate as a facilitator for the offense? Well, maybe a little, but frankly, he’s just too talented to limit himself to such a degree.
Still, if I were Erik Spoelstra, I would tell James to look for other players’ shots first. Yes, if he gets an opportunity, he should drive to the basket and put it in, and I would still fully expect well above 20 PPG from him, but if he accepted his role as the second option wholeheartedly and focused on defense, passing, and creating shots for other players, I think he could truly help this team.