Comparisons between Michael Jordan and LeBron James will happen forever given where they stand in basketball history, but if it was up to Scottie Pippen, there would be no debate. The former Bulls star who partnered with Jordan to win six titles appeared on ESPN’s The Jump Friday to defend his ex-teammate after Isaiah Thomas said he’d take LeBron in an all-time matchup.
“Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever put on shoes and play in our game,” Pippen said. “I’m always asked to compare him to LeBron, and I try to make the best of it. But really, the comparison shouldn’t ever be made.”
Part of Pippen’s argument is that they play different positions and styles, so it’s like comparing apples to oranges. “Michael Jordan was never asked to play that way (like LeBron) because I took that away from him. I was the point forward, I was the facilitator,” Pippen said.
Jordan, on the other hand, was a pure scorer of the highest caliber. “He was asked to score the basketball, and that’s what he was great at.”
It’s worth noting here that Pippen’s opinions on Jordan’s place in NBA history have changed a bit over time. Last year, he said on First Take that LeBron was “probably ahead” of Jordan in terms of statistical accomplishments. That came just months after he said of the Cavaliers star, “I don’t think he’s surpassed Kobe [Bryant] at all, no.”
It’s hard to peg down Pippen’s evolving takes about the NBA’s all-time greats, but he’s been consistent in saying that scorers like Jordan and Bryant shouldn’t be compared directly to more versatile all-around players like LeBron or himself. He also left no doubt about who he’d take to join him in a must-win matchup.
“There’s no game I would ever play in and pick LeBron James over Michael Jordan,” Pippen said. “No game.”
Beyond the basketball comparisons, Rick Telander and Rick Morrissey look at how MJ and LeBron size up off the court in “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.