Richard Jefferson set the online sports world aflame with a single tweet following last night's Heat-Bucks game. After Milwaukee lost Game 2 to go down 2-0 in the series on a last-second foul call, Jefferson declared reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo a "Pippen" rather than a Michael Jordan-type superstar.
Consequently, Thursday morning's discourse was ripe with takes on both sides of this idea. Jay Williams talked about it on this morning's edition of Keyshawn, JWill, and Zubin on ESPN Radio. Williams argued that it's not like calling Giannis a Scottie Pippen-type is an insult because LeBron James was the Pippen to Dwyane Wade's Jordan in Miami.
After conceding LeBron had better statistics than Wade in every category in their first year as teammates in 2011, Williams said that it was ultimately still Wade's team. LeBron then took ownership and became the Jordan of the team in 2012, leading to his first championship as he finally "got over the hump."
I think Keyshawn Johnson's face neatly summarizes how I feel about that argument. Great camerawork here.
Williams can successfully argue that the 2011 Heat were Wade's team because Wade, unlike LeBron and Chris Bosh, did not leave the team who drafted him to go elsewhere. He was (and remains) The Man in Miami. But this strange concept of it being one person's team or the other is only half of the Jordan equation. If one wants to be the "Jordan" of a team, it stands to reason that this person must also be the best player on said team. Wade was great in 2011, but LeBron was better. As Williams helpfully points out.
Where Williams is definitely correct is saying that it doesn't matter if Giannis is a Pippen. Pippen is a Top 50 player of all time. Maybe LeBron and the Golden State Warriors have completely subverted our expectations when it comes to this, but even the great players in NBA history need time to get over that hump. Giannis is 25. His reign in the NBA is only just beginning. To declare after losing two games of a second-round series that he will forever only win a title if he's the second-best player on the floor is some outrageous stuff. Pippen seems to agree with that sentiment.
Maybe Giannis does need a Jordan. Maybe he just needs a Pippen, like LeBron did, to earn a championship ring. We certainly don't know right now, because if Giannis has taught us anything over the course of his career, it's that he can and will defy expectations.