By Dave Wischnowsky–
CHICAGO (CBS) So, LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan.
(If you ask Scottie Pippen … or, well, asked him last week)
But Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are better than either of them.
To which I say, yeah, yeah, yeah … We’ve heard those debates a million times before (although, for the record, among those four, it’s MJ, Wilt, Russell, LeBron).
And because, I’d rather keep things novel and fresh, I instead wanted to wrestle today with a new discussion. And debate this: Who’s the greater player, Dwyane Wade or Scottie Pippen?
Last night, I texted this question to a buddy of mine, who responded: “Very different players. Great debate, though! No better second fiddle than Pip.”
And with that, I would agree. Complementing Jordan’s Batman heroics, Pippen was the greatest “Robin” of all-time. But what I’m wondering today is not who’s the better basketball wingman between Pippen and Wade, but rather who’s the best player, period.
Jordan and James should have nothing to do with it.
And I think the best way to accomplish that goal and delve into this question is by comparing the statistics of Pippen and Wade when they were both leading men, and not merely “supporting” actors.
For Pippen, that No. 1 branding was his for just two seasons, 1993-94 and 1994-95 when Jordan was retired (although MJ returned late during the ’94-’95 season). For Wade, on the other hand, that lead dog label was his for seven years up until this season when LeBron took his talents to South Beach.
For the sake of fairness, I decided to toss out Wade’s rookie season statistics and instead compare his six seasons from 2004-05 to 2009-10 to Pippen’s pair of “solo” campaigns.
And during his two years leading the Bulls alone, Pippen averaged 21.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 3.3 turnovers, 2.9 steals and 1.0 blocks. He shot 48.6 percent from the field, 68.8 percent on free throws and 33.3 percent on threes while averaging 38.3 minutes per game and 76 games per season.
Wade, during the six years of leading the Heat (although, keep in mind that he had Shaquille O’Neal during four of them), averaged 26.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 3.9 turnovers, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks. He shot 48.3 percent from the field, 77.3 percent on free throws and 27.2 percent on threes while averaging 38.4 minutes per game and 68 games per season.
During his two seasons, Pippen was named to the All-NBA and All-Defensive First Teams in each of them, while earning All-Star Game MVP honors in 1994.
Wade, meanwhile, earned All-NBA First Team honors in 2009 and 2010 and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team three times. He also was the All-Star Game MVP in 2010.
During the two campaigns, Pippen’s teams posted a collective .622 winning percentage, but in the playoffs he never advanced the Bulls beyond the Eastern Conference Semifinals (thanks, Hue Hollins). By comparison, Wade’s six teams posted a .614 winning percentage and he (and Shaq) led the Heat to an NBA championship in 2006.
Now, this debate – like all others in sports – is based completely on subjectivity and perception, which is also what makes them so fun. And, so in the name of fun, I’m interested in hearing who you perceive to be the greater player: Pippen or Wade?
In the meantime, perhaps I’ll ask Kareem.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.