The age-old “greatest of all time” debate is most contentious in the NBA. Fans always argue amongst themselves, and by general consensus, it is a two-man race between Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
The Jordan vs. James debate has been reignited, specifically, because of the popularity of the ESPN Documentary series ‘The Last Dance’ which showcases the 1998 Chicago Bulls, on and off the court.
But in an interview with ESPN’s Jackie McMullan, Hall of Famer and Jordan’s former teammate Dennis Rodman is asking if James would even be considered better than Scottie Pippen, if James played in the 90’s.
Rodman, the five-time NBA champion, has never been a guy to mince words. So he wasn’t shy in proclaiming that he doesn’t think it would be even close, and that Pippen was a better player than James is or will be.
“[Pippen] revolutionized the point-forward position. All these players today should thank Scottie Pippen. Guys like Kevin Durant should say, ‘Wow, look what you did for us,'” Rodman said. “Scottie could handle, he could shoot the ball, he could defend, he could rebound. If LeBron was playing during the 1990s, I’d still say Scottie Pippen was the second-best player behind Michael (Jordan)”.
Many legends have stated publicly that Jordan would easily average 40 points per game in today’s NBA, and logic dictates that Pippen’s numbers would also be inflated in today’s game. While what Rodman said may seem more than a little crazy, at closer look there may be some validity to his premise.
Pippen was a player that could play in both the front court and back court. He was more than effective and efficient on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. In a 90’s game that was still focused on long midrange shots and hard defense, it was a rare thing for a player, wherein today’s game, it is more common than not.
The other thing to consider with Rodman’s quote is that players from a certain era, often stick up for their contemporaries. So while Rodman is sticking up for both Pippen and Jordan, it’s worth noting that he not only played during the height of Jordan’s reign, but he owes over half of his rings to Jordan and Pippen as well.
While Rodman may feel very secure in his beliefs, the claim of Scottie Pippen being better than LeBron is a tough stand to take.
A bigger argument and debate would be how LeBron James would have fared against Pippen, Rodman himself, Karl Malone, Dikembe Mutombo, and the other top defenders of that era.