The one LBJ-Day article that irritated me to no end was “God Loves Cleveland” from Bill Simmons.

I don’t know why Simmons chose LBJ-Day to start a Jordan-LeBron debate – it was a day of forgiveness, good feelings and warmsies and fuzzies – he should’ve understood what Ira Winderman did and respected that it wasn’t the right time.  But he went there anyway.

Okay, so let’s go through the passages that frosted my cookies the most.

Offending Passage 1/5:

Jordan’s genius during that particular run, at least for me, was in how beautifully he meshed with Scottie Pippen. You watched them together, running around in tandem, and it was almost like Jordan had spawned his own clone. Like Dr. Evil and Mini-Me. Only in this case, Pippen was two inches taller. Pippen moved like Michael, saw the court like Michael, jumped passing lanes like Michael and blended with Michael’s game like a non-identical twin. It was crazy. I will never forget watching it for the rest of my life. Bird and Magic were geniuses, too, but shit, they never figured out how to replicate themselves.

For that reason and many others, I am never seeing a better basketball player than Michael Jordan.

I’m rolling my eyes hardcore.  Seriously, if Jordan could replicate himself he would’ve done it 10 times and had a team full of Jordan replicants. Yet, Simmons cites Jordan’s ability to clone himself as a major reason why he thinks he’s never seeing a better player than Mike.

rolling eyessimmons-yapping

I’m sure Phil Jackson would’ve loved to hear that.

Me:  Hey, Phil, MJ is over there cloning himself but he doesn’t want to make too many MJs.

Phil:  Well, it would really help the team if he could make at least a few more MJs.

Me:  Yeah, no.  He’s not doing it.  He just wants two MJs and that’s it.  Jordan’s rules.

Simmons acts like Jordan only had a certain number of midichlorians and he drained himself just turning Pippen into a Hall of Famer and after that he was spent – no more force powers to turn BJ Armstrong into John Stockton.

Simmons even alludes to the absurdity of this…

Offending Passage 2/5:

Still, that was an exclusive genius — Jordan couldn’t transfer those gifts to others, with Pippen the lone exception.

An “exclusive genius” with Pip “the lone exception.”  Ha!

Wait, I have an idea!  What if, in reality, Pippen was actually a great player and Michael Jordan really couldn’t clone shit?

How novel!

So to that I tender this BITCH PLEASE reaction:

morrissey-bitch-please

I wonder what Bill Simmons would say about this Jack McCallum passage from a Sports Illustrated article circa November 1991:

In some respects, 26-year-old Scottie Pippen is as difficult for a coach as Jordan is. Pippen’s game was rough and undisciplined, and it was a constant struggle for Jackson to harness Pippen’s extraordinary natural ability. Pippen is a proud and emotional man, too, and it took of every bit of Jacksonian diplomacy not only to teach him the finer points, but also to convince him they were necessary. Pippen improved so much last season that he landed a spot, with Jordan, on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team.

“The best thing that happened to us was that Scottie took to our coaching and trusted our intuition,” says Jackson. “We encouraged him to provide certain skills. He worked, for example, on different backboard angles on his shots, when to take his shot, knowing when he had to score and when he didn’t. The maturing of Scottie Pippen as a player was a major factor in our winning.”

Wait… so coaching had something to do with Pippen’s development?  That sounds unreasonable.  It can’t be true.  I was told that Pippen was great because Jordan figured out how to replicate himself via a unique cloning genius, which is obviously the reason why he’s the greatest player of all time.

(And DO NOT get me started on how Jackson was also responsible for turning Jordan into a great winner.  Jackson was the guy who finally convinced Jordan to trust his teammates more, which led directly to rings.  In other words, Jackson had to convince Jordan to play a little bit more like LeBron in order to turn him into a champion.)

Simmons continues…

Offending Passage 3/5:

Michael Jordan was a genius, and maybe he was better than even that. From December 1990 through the 1998 Finals, not including his baseball sabbatical, the Chicago Bulls never lost three straight games with Jordan. Given the unforgiving NBA schedule, nonstop travel and general wear and tear, that’s basically impossible. But it happened. The man hated losing THAT much.

So Simmons credits team performance over this period to Michael Jordan.  In other words, Chicago didn’t lose three straight games because the greatness of Air Jordan wouldn’t let them lose three straight games.  Now, of course, he doesn’t know that for a fact.  Maybe the Bulls lost two games in a row, and in the third game MJ was terrible, but Pippen and Paxson were great and saved the day.  That is certainly plausible.

Or maybe the reason they never lost 3 in a row was because of Phil Jackson’s coaching and not MJ.  How would anybody know?  There were several Hall of Famers involved.

We say these things cheaply, take its accuracy for granted, and assume it’s all harmless anyway.  But it isn’t harmless.  False notions can breed like rabbits.  What is the famous saying?  “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

So it’s completely unfair to do this, and actually dangerous.

But this is a major part of the Jordan myth, or lets just call them the Jordan exaggerations.  Jordan’s will to win is always exaggerated.  But where was his will to win when he was getting bounced in the first round before Scottie, Grant and Jackson showed up?

Moving on…

Simmons then talks about the Heat peaking during their 27 game winning streak, calling it, one of the best achievements in NBA history.”

One of the best achievements in NBA history.  I’ll take it.

But why couldn’t we attribute THAT to LeBron, and give it the Jordan myth treatment?

LeBron James was a genius, and maybe he was better than even that. From 2010 to 2014 the Miami Heat went to four straight NBA Finals, winning two rings back-to-back, without any rebounding or shot blocking.  They even managed to win 27 straight games while being the worst rebounding team in the league, without a single 7 footer on their roster and without any shot blocking whatsoever. Given the unforgiving NBA schedule, nonstop travel and general wear and tear, that’s basically impossible. But it happened. The man hated losing THAT much.

Right?

Okay, Simmons isn’t done…

Offending Passage 4/5:

On any given night, he can throw up a triple-double, score 40 points, unleash five or six GIFs, defend everyone from Parker to Carmelo, play point forward, play in the low post … you name it, he can do it. LeBron can do whatever he wants. But you know what he can’t do? Play basketball at an insanely high level without the right teammates.

WHAT!!!?  LeBron can’t play basketball at an insanely high level without the right teammates!???!??

What we were watching in 2007?

And who was the guy putting up the most astounding playoff production in modern history in 2009?

LeBron-Playoff-PER

For my money, LeBron James in the 2009 playoffs was the greatest basketball player who ever lived.

Did Michael Jordan always play at an insanely high level without the right teammates?  No, he didn’t.

After MJ scored 63 points on Boston in Game 2 of the first round in 1986, he followed that up with 19 points in the next game.  It was an elimination game.  They lost.  Was that an insanely high level?  Doubt it.

If LeBron did something like that, he would get endless criticism for his lack of scoring (“he’s not a killer”) and we would still be hearing about it 5 years later.

Okay, let’s keep it rolling…

Offending Passage 5/5:

At this point, [LeBron’s] résumé is unassailable: He could retire tomorrow as one of the best seven players ever. Over the course of NBA history, five LeBrons would probably beat five Anyone Else’s. (Yes, even five Jordans.)

So, Simmons says he’ll never see a better player than Jordan, but then says something like that?

Look, LeBron is not even 30 and Simmons has him in the top 7.  Why couldn’t he jump to the top of the pile?  Well, he could.  In 2010, in Simmons’ Big Book of Boo Boos, he ranked LeBron 20th.  After LeBron’s 2nd ring in 2013 Simmons put him in the top 10.  Today he has him somewhere in the top 7.  You can see where I’m going with this, but maybe a chart will help.

Simmons-Rank

Next stop, Goatsville!

I’m going to make a prediction:  Simmons is going to be calling LeBron “The Greatest” at some point within the next 5 years.

dot-seperator

And…. scene.

I’m glad I got that off my chest.

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Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Hey, this was actually pretty good!

    Reply
  2. I am more inclined to believe that Jordan had something to do with Pippen’s development than Jackson, who was at best a thief (thank you Tex winters) and a procrastinator. His New York stint will expose him.

    News flash if Lebron continues at his current Level he will be the GOAT. get used to that idea.

    Reply
    • Jordan was never a guy who wanted to mentor teammates. And, as he said, he was not a vocal leader. He led by example. The most he ever did in regards to Pippen was to play hard in practice – because he always felt he had to prove himself to new guys and rookies, to show them that he works hard and that he doesn’t think of himself as a prima donna. But he never took Pippen “under his wing” so to speak.

      Phil Jackson’s take on Pippen’s development is obviously a little more detailed than the nonsense from Bill Simmons. Jackson writes in Eleven Rings:

      “One of the players I worked with closely during my tenure as an assistant coach was Scottie Pippen. We both started with the team the same year, and I spent a lot of time helping him learn how to pull up and shoot off the dribble. Scottie was a quick learner and devoted time to absorbing how the triangle worked. He had been a point guard in college before becoming a small forward, and he had an innate sense of how all the pieces fit together on the floor. Scottie had long arms and excellent court vision, which made him the perfect person to spearhead our defensive attack.

      What impressed me most about Scottie, however, was his development over time as a leader – NOT BY MIMICKING MICHAEL (my emphasis) but by teaching his teammates how to play within the system and always offering a compassionate ear when they ran into trouble. This was critical because Michael wasn’t very accessible and many of the players were intimidated by his presence. Scottie was someone they could talk to, someone who would keep an eye out for them on the court. As Steve Kerr says, “Scottie was the nurturer; Michael was the enforcer.”

      See… if Jordan was actually the one developing Pippen by replicating himself – well he seemed to have overlooked a big part of his personality, no?

      Jackson continues:

      “So in my second year as head coach I created a new position for Scottie – ‘point forward’ – and had him share the job of moving the ball up the court with the guards – an experiment that worked out far better than I expected. That switch unleashed a side of Scottie that had never been tapped, and he blossomed into a gifted multidimensional player with the ability to break games wide open on the fly. As he puts it, the shift ‘made me the player I wanted to be in the NBA.’

      The effect on the team was powerful. Shifting Scottie to point guard put the ball in his hands as much as in Michael’s, and it allowed M.J. to move to the wing and play a number of different roles in the offense, including leading the attack on transition. The shift opened up possibilities for the other players because Scottie was more egalitarian than Michael in the way he distributed the ball. All of a sudden a new, more collaborative group dynamic was evolving.”

      I’m much more inclined to believe that Jackson’s decisions are what molded Pippen into the player that the Bulls needed him to be. That is in fact what Jackson was paid to do, after all. And Jordan played with a ton of players over his career, before and after Pippen, and for some odd reason people think it’s reasonable to say that Jordan created Pippen, but couldn’t make anybody else?

      As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that Jackson is the guy who turned all of those guys into NBA champions. Including Jordan, and including Tex Winter.

      But Jackson didn’t “steal” anything from Tex Winter. He and Krause were Tex’s greatest supporters, and he always gives Tex great credit, even to this day. But Jackson was the conductor and Jordan, Pippen and Winter were just players in his orchestra. Or, as Jordan said, Jackson had a masterful way of meshing large egos together that was very similar to Dean Smith.

      Reply

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