Dwyane Wade or Scottie Pippen?

Comparing players across different eras is the stuff of barber shop and bar banter the world over, and the crux of innumerable petty squabbles.

Are you kidding me?! Jordan would wipe the floor with LeBron!”

You’re outta your mind! LeBron’s bigger, stronger, and faster than MJ ever was!”

Part of what makes these arguments so fun is the fact that no one can ever truly know the answer and so the debates rage on.

A new such debate came to light recently when Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade surpassed NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen in scoring in 390 fewer games.

Pippen served as one of the key cogs on all of those historic Bulls championship teams from the 90s, often locking down the opposing team’s most potent offensive threat, earning himself eight all-defensive 1st team honors and collecting six championships.

It’s this legacy which will endure and echo in the annals of NBA history, but has this mythology obfuscated and dulled our appreciation for the current slew of NBA stars bound for the Hall of Fame?

Ask just about any old-school NBA fan to pick between Dwyane Wade and Scottie Pippen and you’re likely to receive a resounding vote for Pippen and perhaps a history lesson exalting the NBA heroes of yesteryear and bemoaning kids these days and their lack of perspective.

However, when compared side-by-side in their respective primes, when both players helmed their teams’ ship, the nod pretty clearly goes to Wade.

 

PPG

 

FG %

 

APG

 

RPG

 

SPG

 

BPG

 

PER

 

08-09 Dwyane Wade

30.2

49%

7.5

5

2.2

1.3

30.4

 

93-94 Scottie Pippen

22

48%

5.6

8.7

2.9

0.8

23.2

In the 2008-09 season and his sixth year in the league, Wade carried one of the most defunct, mismatched rosters to 43 wins and a playoff berth. In a year in which his best teammate was either a dilapidated Jermaine O’Neal, a post-seven-seconds-or-less Shawn Marion, or a stoned rookie Michael Beasley, Wade managed to lead the league in scoring, finish eighth in the assist category, and posted the league’s second best player efficiency rating.

Meanwhile in his seventh year in the league, after Michael Jordan’s first retirement in the 1993-94 season, Pippen led a Chicago Bulls team coming off a championship to 55 wins, only to be eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. While serving as the league’s best defender, Pippen also led his team in scoring, assists, and steals.

While Pippen’s numbers are ridiculous in their own right considering all he was doing on both ends of the floor, Dwyane Wade’s 2008-09 season is simply one of the best in the history of the league (a fact that seems to be lost on many, due in part to the team’s lack of postseason success).

To put it into perspective, Wade’s player efficiency rating that year was a gaudy 30.4, ranking him 18th all-time in NBA history.

Pippen’s PER in the 1993-94 season was 23.2. For comparison’s sake, Blake Griffin finished 10th in the league last year with a PER of 22.9 and ahead of him was DeMarcus Cousins with a PER of 25.3.

It’s impossible to dispute the greatness of Scottie Pippen, and further, why would you want to? He’s one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and simple counting stats can never account for the true impact his defensive presence had on games.

However, it seems we’ve created an NBA mythology where the players of the past become part of a lore in which they seem almost superhuman forgetting their flaws, and in the process dismiss the stars of our NBA present who have yet to reap the benefits of our nostalgia.

Many will make the argument that Pippen served his role best as Robin to Jordan’s Batman better than any other player could have, and he may well have. However, when thrust into the alpha role, tasked with leading their team, it is undeniable which player performed best in their prime, and that’s Dwyane Wade.

photo via llananba