“The numbers don’t lie,” Pippen said of James. “He’s right there. He probably will never catch [Jordan] in terms of MVP, but in terms of statistics, LeBron is right there. When you look across the board — not just scoring — but check his assists, check his rebounds, he’s probably ahead of Jordan.”
This comment sent Stephen A. Smith reeling and caused him to pantomime throwing a bottled water at Pippen. He and co-host Max Kellerman then pushed back mightily on the assertion.
The two-minute clip is precisely why this debate is so unproductive. An overwhelming majority of fans side with Jordan and always will. But if we can’t point out empirical evidence that James belongs in the conversation for best ever, or is close to MJ’s level, there’s no point.
Pippen did not say James is the GOAT. He simply said the numbers suggest he’s outpaced Jordan in several categories. LeBron has a career scoring average of 27.2 points/game to Jordan’s 30.1. James leads in rebounding/game (7.3 to 6.2) and assists/game (7.1 to 5.3). It is not sacrilegious or legacy-threatening to point out these statistics.
There’s no need to freak out. Those are just facts. No amount of crazy gesticulation or other overboard response is going to change things. Refusal to engage or acknowledge arguments that don’t comport with one’s strongly-held opinion is a good sign that back-and-forth is a lost cause.
The headlines resulting from this clip show that nuance has no place. Pippen never said James is better than his former teammate. He said James has been a more prolific rebounder and passer. And there’s no lie there.