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You knew as soon as Scottie Pippen predicted last week that LeBron James will surpass Michael Jordan as basketball’s greatest player that there was going to be backlash.
The idea that anyone could be better than Jordan seems ridiculous to most. And throw in that the closest comparison still doesn’t have one NBA title ring and Jordan has six and the argument Pippen made last week seemed even more absurd.
So it was no surprise this week when more NBA Hall of Famers joined the chorus of those disappointed in Pippen’s seemingly slight of his former teammate. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Isiah Thomas both disagreed with Pippen’s assessment in a story on the ESPN New York site.
Thomas, whose Detroit Pistons hammered Jordan’s Chicago Bulls for years before finally succumbing in 1991, said James isn’t quite there but given time could equal Jordan.
"I think LeBron has a chance to eclipse Jordan if he continues to improve his game, but where they are right now, you still have to take Jordan as being the better player," Thomas said Tuesday night on "The Stephen A. Smith Show" on ESPN Radio 1050. "Now, six years from now, if LeBron continues to add different facets to his game, then maybe you can have that argument and you can have that debate.”
Now Abdul-Jabbar, who is still the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, had an even more interesting perspective on the whole James-Jordan debate. Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t think Jordan is the game’s greatest player or greatest scorer, for that matter. That honor in Abdul-Jabbar’s mind belongs to Wilt Chamberlain. Jordan may not have even better than Bill Russell, according to Abdul-Jabbar.
Abdul-Jabbar made his feelings known in an open letter he penned to Pippen.
“I have nothing but respect for you my friend as an athlete and knowledgeable basketball mind. But you are way off in your assessment of who is the greatest player of all time and the greatest scorer of all time. Your comments are off because of your limited perspective. You obviously never saw Wilt Chamberlain play who undoubtedly was the greatest scorer this game has ever known. When did MJ ever average 50.4 points per game plus 25.7 rebounds? (Wilt in the 1962 season when blocked shot statistics were not kept). We will never accurately know how many shots Wilt blocked. Oh, by the way in 1967 and 68, Wilt was a league leader in assists. Did MJ ever score 100 points in a game? How many times did MJ score more than 60 points in a game? MJ led the league in scoring in consecutive seasons for 10 years but he did this in an NBA that eventually expanded into 30 teams vs. when Wilt played and there were only 8 teams.”