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Why Scottie Pippen believes it’s unfair to compare Michael Jordan and LeBron James

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OAKLAND – The topic seemingly follows Scottie Pippen everywhere.
So even if the former Chicago Bulls forward attended Warriors practice on Friday as an NBA analyst for ESPN’s “The Jump,” it seemed inevitable Pippen would field a question about it even if it has nothing to do with Golden State. You know what is coming.
How would Pippen compare Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and former Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan?
“There’s really no comparison. Michael Jordan played in an era when the game was different. It was being refereed differently than what LeBron is playing in,” Pippen said. “LeBron plays a different role than what Michael played as a player. In all fairness to Michael, he was never asked to do the things LeBron does for his team. He had a lesser role.”
No use bringing up the rings argument in which Jordan has six to James’ three. No use in comparing the career numbers, either. Jordan averaged 30.1 points on 49.7 percent shooting, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists through 15 NBA seasons with two different stints in Chicago (1984-1993, 1994-1998) and two-year run in Washington (2001-2003). James has averaged 27.2 points on 50.4 percent shooting, 7.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists through 15 NBA seasons with two different stints in Cleveland (2003-10, 2014-present) and Miami (2010-2014).
“Statistically, that’s why you’re seeing LeBron’s numbers are far better than Michael Jordan’s numbers in terms of what he does throughout the whole game,” Pippen said. “We didn’t utilize Michael to do things the Cavs utilized LeBron for. The comparison is unfair.”
Why is that?

Scottie Pippen unsurprisingly chimes in on the MJ/LeBron debate pic.twitter.com/OmMIHjZVXy
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) May 18, 2018

“It’s not a fair comparison to LeBron or Michael. One guy is considered a two guard and one guy is considered a small forward,” Pippen said. “They definitely are great in their era and are both the greatest in their era. But to say who is the greatest, we will never know that. In my eye, Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest basketball player. But Michael and LeBron should never really be compared. It’s almost like comparing Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] to me. That wouldn’t be fair.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who played with Pippen in Chicago from 1993 to 1998, has compared Pippen to Warriors forward Andre Iguodala.
“Incredible basketball intellect,” Kerr said of the two players. “That’s the connection. Some of it is coaching, but most of it is an innate feel for the game at both ends. Two pretty good players.”
Unlike the debate between Jordan and James, Pippen liked the Iguodala comparison.
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“I see that being true,” Pippen said. “I think we have a lot of similarities on the basketball court: the way we play the game, the skill level and our athleticism and the little things on the court that I did that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Pippen made seven All-Star appearances, was named on three All-NBA first teams and was on eight NBA All-Defensive First teams. Iguodala has only one lone All-Star appearance and an All-Defensive First team honor. But then again, neither players’ value stemmed from accolades.
“I heard Steve say Andre doesn’t always get the assists. But he makes the pass that leads to the assist,” Pippen said. “It’s all predicated on his ability to do multiple things out on the basketball court, rebounding the ball, coming up with steals and leading the team in transition. All of that becomes gravy for you because you don’t have to rely on your point guard to make plays and do things for you throughout the game. It’s good to have players that are more versatile that can break defenses down and create opportunities for your team, especially in transition.”
The Warriors also have Draymond Green fulfilling those responsibilities.
“His ability to play hard and his ability to have such a strong presence and his ability to use his verbal abuse to intimidate has made him one of the best power forwards in our game today,” Pippen said of Green. “You can see it throughout the game with his leadership and how his team is able to rally off his style of play and his enthusiasm.”
Steering those players is Kerr, whom Pippen said has “done a tremendous job” in managing a Warriors team that has won two NBA championships in three consecutive Finals appearances. The Warriors finished second in the Western Conference (58-24), exerting their star talent and continuity amid overlapping injuries to those players and periodic complacency.  Since then, the Warriors are tied, 1-1, with the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals entering Game 3 on Sunday at Oracle Arena.
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“I think Steve has done a great job in keeping these guys motivated throughout the rest of the season,” Pippen said. “The regular season, they dealt with injuries and that nature. But just to be back here and have an opportunity, three wins away from going back to the Finals, I think he’s done an excellent job.”
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Had Pippen’s meeting with Kerr happened nearly 20 years ago, their presence would have yielded an amazing in-game adjustment.
Pippen could have provided the Warriors another versatile forward capable of fulfilling various roles. Kerr could have given the Warriors yet another deadly shooter. Too bad the 52-year-old Pippen attended Friday’s practice as an NBA analyst for ESPN’s “The Jump “. Too bad the 52-year-old Kerr was at Friday’s practice as part of his daily duties as the Warriors’ coach.
“Scottie does look like he can still play, but he can’t,” Kerr said, smiling. “I look like I can still play. But I can’t either. But we both aged okay.”
Pippen countered, “It just looks like that. Don’t let the look fool you unless you’re a GM.”
Still, Pippen believed a much younger version of himself would have played “great” in today’s NBA that puts a premium on positionless players and outside shooting.
“I think the skill level is about the same. I think from a physicality standpoint, players today are in better shape,” Pippen said. “Teams are doing all they can to make sure they are in better shape and stay more healthy throughout the season. But it’s still the same position and is still played the same way.”
Well, almost.
“In today’s game, players have a little bit of advantage because the game is not as physical as it was back in the 80’s and even in the 90’s,” Pippen said. “You’re less likely to get injured to some degree. That’s not to say they’re not getting injured, but it seemed to be looking at the physicality of the game is not as harsh as it was. Me playing in the late 80’s and into the 90’s. It’s different. I think the league has done a great job in making sure they clean the game up and make it more competitive game and not a dirty game.”
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