Kareem didn't scold Pippen for thinking LeBron, magnificent player though he is, could be even better than six-title-winning, six-Finals-MVP-winning, five-league-MVP-winning Jordan. He scolded him for not considering some of the game's earlier greats (greats like, say, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). And though it all seemed self-serving, Mike Wilbon said on PTI today that not only did Kareem have a point about not respecting the game's earlier stars, but that ESPN helped make it so:
We get what Wilbon's saying about the constant hype of the here and now obscuring everything else, and we like the willingness to take shots at the mothership. However, we're also torn because it comes off as somewhat Kareem-ish in a "get off my lawn" sense.
Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, both mentioned in Kareem's letter, were great, great players (as was Kareem, of course). But the fact that they played in a much different era hurts their case against Jordan, if anything. The league was smaller back then - so was the talent pool. So were the players. Wilt was a physically dominant force unlike anything the league had seen.
Jordan, on the other hand, was a shooting guard. His best teammates on his best teams, aside from Pippen, were the likes of Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc, and Dennis Rodman. Fine players, but not quite the Bob Cousy/Sam Jones/Tom Heinsohn/John Havlicek group Russell was working with.
Despite that, Jordan's last six full seasons with the Bulls produced six titles. It's no disrespect to Russell, Wilt, or Kareem (or a sign that the proliferation of highlight shows corrupts our culture) to say Jordan is the best ever. And contrary to Wilbon's view of things, Kareem was only petty, not correct, in saying otherwise.
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