A few weeks ago, Scottie Pippen found himself on the spot on ESPN’s “First Take” when moderator Molly Qerim asked him to weigh in on the ever-present LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan GOAT debate.
For Jordan’s long-time teammate and fellow six-time champion, the easy route would have been to take Jordan while giving a respecting nod to the greatness of James at the same time.
Pippen, instead, chose nuance. And in the world of sports debate, especially an argument as polarizing as LeBron vs. M.J., we all know that nuance never wins.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Pippen said of James stacking up to Jordan. “He’s right there. He probably will never catch him in terms of MVP, but in terms of statistics, LeBron is right there. And when you look across the board, not just scoring — check his assists, check his rebounds — he’s probably ahead of Jordan.”
The blogosphere and Bulls fans pounced. How dare Pippen disrespect the legacy of of the unimpeachable M.J., one of his own? Harumph!
When in fact, as our own Ben Rohrbach eloquently broke down, Pippen’s remark about James being statistically superior to Jordan is pretty much inarguable. Despite how much weight one might give to Jordan’s impeccable 6-0 NBA Finals record, his stats don’t quite stand up next to King James’.
And that’s fine. It’s OK to acknowledge that fact, even as you make your case that Jordan’s intangibles and championship record push the needle in his favor.
Well, Pippen has evidently learned his lesson that sometimes it’s just best to give the easy answer when the spotlight’s on. And take a cue from Chicago’s de facto No. 1 sports fan, former President Barack Obama.
Obama recently sat down for a radio interview alongside Britain’s Prince Harry, when the topic of M.J. vs. LeBron came up. An astute politician (obviously), Obama came ready with the clearly correct answer from a Chicago son’s point of view.
“Jordan,” Obama responded clearly and confidently when asked about his preference between the two greats on BBC Radio 4. “Although I love LeBron. I’m a Chicago guy.”
Well done by POTUS 44. No controversy there. Stick with the hometown guy while acknowledging the obvious greatness of the other guy.
So when Pippen recently found himself hounded by TMZ to yet again give his take on M.J. vs. LeBron in light of Obama’s remarks, he kept it simple this time.
“I’m picking him over LeBron too,” Pippen said as he rapidly walked down a public sidewalk away from the TMZ camera.
That’s the ticket, Scottie. M.J. is the correct answer. No muss, no fuss.