The narrative of the Cleveland Cavaliers after this year’s trade deadline was that with the new talent the team acquired, they were the easy favorite to win the east. Media members raved about Larry Nance’s length and athleticism mixed with the scoring ability of Jordan Clarkson. This came just less than a year after these same media members declared role players mean nothing in the playoffs, as long as you have your superstars.
So now, as the Celtics take a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, these same media members have once again switched their narratives. Whenever LeBron James does eventually go down, whether it is in the Eastern Conference or NBA Finals, it will now no longer be on him, but rather on the fact that he “had no help.”
While the case of him having no help is a fair one, if kept consistent, it really isn’t unheard of to win an NBA Championship without multiple superstars. In fact, Michael Jordan did it, and LeBron has actually had it done against him.
Now, before we start overreacting, by no means am I saying Scottie Pippen was not a superstar during his career. However, if we’re going simply by the 1990-91 season, Pippen was not even an all-star.
During the 1990-91 season Pippen averaged 17.8 points per game and 7.3 rebounds a game while shooting 52%. He played all 82 games, averaging almost 37 minutes per game, so this his all-star snub was not due to injury. To say Jordan never won without Pippen is true because, well, it’s a proven fact. However, to say Jordan never won without any stars on the team is false.
There is a similar player on the Cavs roster this year however that has put up similar numbers to Scottie Pippen. Kevin Love in the regular season averaged 17.6 points while grabbing over nine rebounds per game. Now, to make the argument fair, the game was more defensive in the 1990’s. Pippen was easily the better defender, however because of today’s modern NBA, Kevin Love was much more efficient from the three-point line.
In regards to had the better career, it’s not even close. Scottie Pippen may go down as one of the top twenty players ever to play the game. However, if we’re comparing just these two seasons of 1990-91 and 2017-18, they both had just about the same impact.
Moving past the “stars” of the team, for the sake of this argument let’s go to the role players. Before the trade deadline, the Cavs not only another all-star besides LeBron, but a member of the 2016-17 second team All-NBA in Isaiah Thomas. Cleveland also had Dwayne Wade, who although was way past his prime, was an all-star just two seasons before, averaging over 18 points per game.
When these two, as well as Jae Crowder were traded for Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr, it was almost unanimously thought of as a major improvement. So based off of the popular opinion, the Cavs actually improved from an All-NBA second teamer and former all-star.
As for the Bulls, Jordan did not have much help either. Besides Pippen, Jordan had Horace Grant, who averaged twelve points and eight rebounds per game. No other player on the team averaged over ten points per game for that season. The rest of those nine players combined for one all-star appearance in their combined careers.
There’s no denying LeBron could use a little more help, and there’s no denying the team around his is not really that good. However, to say Jordan never won a finals without a super-star is wrong. This take of LeBron being the greatest of all-time has come from a majority of millennials who never saw Jordan play one game in his career. Before we start taking shots at the greatest of all-time, let’s realize how great Michael Jordan was.
(Photo: Sporting News)