Well, this stinks. Two months of quarantining were largely made tolerable by having new episodes of The Last Dance to look forward to. And now that’s over.
My social life is pretty sad during regular times, and it’s even sadder during a quarantine. During regular times, a major part of my socializing is watching basketball with friends and talking about basketball with friends. That remained true during the quarantine, even without live basketball to watch. My text messages would be most active on Sunday evenings into Monday, with chatter about the current episodes.
Now that the documentary is over, and there’s no end of the quarantine on the immediate horizon, the outlook is grim for my social life. I might as well try to extend the discussion by posting my thoughts about the documentary and the discussion it generated, and hope it motivates a few people to communicate with me.
After watching all 10 episodes of the documentary, discussing lots of it with my friends, and spending too much time on Twitter reading what strangers were saying about it, my main thought… is about Carmen Electra.
Actually, strike that. I should stick to basketball. I’ll try again.
Basketball, basketball, basketball. You know who must have been really good at basketball? Carmen Electra must have been really good at basketball. In 1998, Dennis Rodman’s productivity was slipping, then he spent a few days in the middle of the season in Las Vegas with Carmen, and he came back an improved basketball player. Stands to reason that she’s great at basketball, and they got some quality practice time together while in Vegas. Right?
Uhhh…. You know what? Let’s forget about Carmen Electra altogether, and move on to other topics.
My main thought, after watching the documentary, discussing the documentary, listening to commentary about the documentary, and reading about the documentary, is that Scottie Pippen has become extremely over-rated.
Yeah, I said it. OVERrated.
I keep hearing that Scottie Pippen was under-rated. For the life of me, I don’t understand where the people who make this claim think Scottie Pippen is rated. Back when the NBA “turned 50,” it recognized 50 players as the best 50 to have ever played. Pippen was among the top 50. Bill Simmons is the one person alive who has devoted years to creating a system for ranking the best NBA players throughout history, and then actually ranking them. He has Pippen at #28. Just this month, ESPN pulled together a list of the top 100. They have Pippen at 21.
21?!?! That’s insane. Even 28 is pushing it.
Each of those rankings puts Pippen ahead of Dwyane Wade. (Simmons had Wade at 53 when he published his book in 2009, and Wade’s not one of the guys Simmons bumped ahead of Pippen as of April 2020. ESPN puts Wade at 26.) ESPN has Isiah at 31, and Barkley at 23.
The fundamental mistake these rankings make is that they overvalue rings achieved as the second-best player on a team, and they undervalue the immense achievement of making a bad team competitive, or of leading a team to a title even just one time. In the ’02-03 season, Miami was 25-57. Then they drafted Wade, and they made the playoffs in 10 of the next 12 seasons, including 3 championships. Some people pretend there’s a question about who was the best player on their ’06 championship team between Wade and Shaq, but Wade averaged 27 points in 38 Minutes Per Game that season, while Shaq averaged 20 points in 30 Minutes Per Game. There’s no question – Wade was the top player on that team.
Isiah’s even better. In the 1980-81 season, the Pistons were 21-61. Then they drafted Isiah, and made the playoffs every year from 1984 – 1992, including two championships and one additional Finals appearance.
Pippen never joined a bad team and made them good. He can’t be blamed for that; it’s not his fault that he joined a team that already had MJ. But, it’s not like he played his entire career on MJ’s team. In 1994, he was the best player on a Bulls team that lost in the second round. In 1995, he was the best player on a Bulls team that was 34-31 when Jordan announced he was coming out of retirement. Pippen then spent 5 more years in the league (disregarding his ceremonial final season on the Bulls), and never made The Finals. His best team achievement without MJ was making the Conference Finals once, and his best statistical season without MJ was 93-94, when he averaged 22 points, 6 assists, and 9 rebounds.
Pippen was a phenomenal player, no question about it. If I really took the time to rank everyone, I’d probably put him between 30 and 35. But to rank as Top 25 of all time, shouldn’t you have a track record of making a bad team good, or at least of being the best player on a Finals team if not on a championship team? A whole bunch of phenomenal players achieved at least one of those things, and I don’t see how Pippen’s achievements jump him ahead of those players.
There’s much more to say about this, but I doubt any of the three of you are still reading. Stay safe, hoopservers.