Scottie Pippen is a confident man. And a man with a chip on his shoulder — he’s one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players ever (easily) yet by too many is seen as Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman. Pippen was a lot more than a disposable sidekick (or whatever you see Nightwing as), he was a superstar in his own right.
But this may be a step over the line.
When talking about LeBron James’ skill set — is he more Magic Johnson? Oscar Robertson? Jordan? — Pippen told Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer there is another good comparison.
“I was LeBron James before LeBron James,” Bulls great Scottie Pippen told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “It’s not even close….
“They want to compare him to the greatest, whether it be Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, but he’s more closer to myself,” Pippen said. “It’s natural for folks to say that, but if you look at how he plays the game and how I played the game, you’ll see more similarities with us.”
Maybe on some level this isn’t wholly unreasonable. Both are point forwards who play a hybrid role, both were good passers, both can defend multiple positions. LeBron’s game is certainly more like Pippen than Jordan in style.
But as great as Pippen was — I don’t think we can emphasise enough what a special player he was, MJ doesn’t have all those rings without him — LeBron is simply the better player. LeBron is being compared to Magic and MJ because that’s the next all-time tier for him to climb onto.
LeBron’s physical gifts are just superior to Pippen’s (or anyone else of that size), and that has given LeBron the vastly superior offensive game. Over his career, LeBron has averaged 27.3 points a game on a 58.1 percent true shooting percentage, Where Pippen averaged 16.1 per game with a 53.1 true shooting percentage. Pretty much any advanced stat you break out — PER 27.2 to 18.6), win shares per 48 minutes (.240 to .186), value over replacement player (101 to 69.6) — LeBron comes out well ahead of Pippen.
Besides that, LeBron has proven to be a better leader of a team than Pippen turned out to be (in Houston and Portland, it didn’t always go smoothly for Pippen). And while Pippen was a high IQ player, LeBron’s feel for the game is off the charts.
Frankly, LeBron has passed Pippen.
Maybe there is a stylistic argument to be made in that comparison, but that’s where it ends.