Pippen: LeBron may be greatest player ever

Michael Jordan and Lebron James
CBS/Getty Images
Lebron James and Michael Jordan
CBS/Getty Images

As if Bulls fans weren't dejected enough. The day after losing a late lead - and the Eastern Conference title - to the Miami Heat, one of Chicago's own has dared to invoke LeBron James and Michael Jordan in the same breath.

Scottie Pippen, Bulls Hall of Famer (and Jordan's running mate), not only dared to compare LeBron to Michael Jordan, he actually suggested that the polarizing player with zero rings is a better player than, well, the best player of all time.

Speaking on ESPN Radio Friday morning, Pippen was asked if LeBron could ever challenge Jordan as the best player ever. His answer:

"Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game," Pippen said. "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. You have to be on your Ps and Qs on defense. No guy on the basketball court is not a threat to score with LeBron James out there. Not only will LeBron dominate from the offensive end as well, but he's also doing it on the defensive end which really makes him the complete package. He's able to get in those passing lanes, shoot those gaps and create transition opportunities where he is pretty much unstoppable."

Wow. Most fans (and likely every person in Chicago) might consider it blasphemous to rate a 26-year-old who has failed to win a single championship with Air Jordan and his six rings and five MVP awards. But Pippen actually makes a compelling argument. He concedes that his former teammate is the greatest scorer (Jordan racked up 10 scoring titles) but makes valid points about James' all-around game - specifically his ability to get his teammates involved and his defensive prowess.

Still, the declaration likely won't sit well with Bulls fans and a legion of others who think LeBron still has a lot to accomplish (winning one title would be a start), and a lot to repair, like his post-"Decision" reputation. Right or wrong, James is labeled arrogant and insensitive for the way he handled his defection to Miami.

Which brings us to one last LeBron-MJ comparison. Last July, the Bulls legend called out LeBron for choosing to team up with stars - rather than compete against them. Of course, it's impossible to compare star players from different eras. But would LeBron be on the verge of his first NBA title if Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh magically transformed into Horace Grant and John Paxson?

Scottie Pippen may think so but the rest of us have doubts.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com