Numbers don’t lie—do you think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s right?
It’s a tricky situation, navigating all these barroom hypothetical arguments about who’s done what and who was the best at whatever. But there are some things people are missing, when it comes to Scottie Pippen’s continued annihilation of the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s patronizing tsk-tsk’ing of Pippen after the former Bull dared compare LeBron James’potential legacy to that of Michael Jordan’s.
As you no doubt know, last week Pippen called his former teammate Michael Jordan “the greatest scorer to ever play the game,” before going on to point out that LeBron James “may be the greatest player to ever play the game.” Not, “LeBron James has already caught up to and/or passed Michael Jordan in terms of accomplishments,” but that he may someday be the greatest ever. Pippen’s right. No player with James’ skills and athleticism has ever graced the NBA. If he doesn’t retire as the best, then something will have gone wrong.
And though endless people took horrified offense at the thought of James and the sainted Jordan being referred to in the same breath, Kareem took umbrage at the first part of Pippen’s statement in an open letter to his Hall of Fame counterpart. That he was the greatest scorer ever when, how dare you, Kareem scored more points than anyone in NBA history.
Kareem couches this personal offense with one buried mention (signing his open letter to Pippen with “Affectionately, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer”; Jordan holds the NBA’s best per-game scoring average) after several paragraphs spent building up the accomplishments of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Kareem wants to know why Jordan never averaged 50 in a season, nor dropped a hundred in a game, like Wilt did. He wants to know why Jordan never managed 11 rings, as Russell did.
He also kind of wants to be a jerk about it.
“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.”
After rattling off this series of statistics, Abdul-Jabbar chides Pippen “to do a little homework before crowning Michael or LeBron with the title of best ever,” before reminding (?) Pippen that “the ring is the thing, and everything else is just statistics.” So, erm, why even bring up Chamberlain? Because Robert Horry and Steve Kerr have way more rings than Wilt, and everything else is just statistics, right?
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