Scottie Pippen had a front-row seat to watch Miami's LeBron James help oust the Chicago Bulls from the playoffs, and the Hall of Famer believes James might supplant Pippen's former running mate Michael Jordan as the greatest player ever.
"Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game," Pippen said Friday on "Mike & Mike In The Morning" on ESPN Radio. "But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game because he is so potent offensively that not only can he score at will but he keeps everybody involved.
Horace Grant, a close friend of Pippen's who won three titles with Jordan's Bulls, was shocked to hear of Pippen's comments.
"Pip is my man, and we will always be close but I totally disagree," Grant said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "LeBron is going to be one of the top players to ever play the game. But Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who we bumped heads with at times, is I think in my era, the best who ever played the game.
"I'm kind of at a loss for words because Michael Jordan ... when you win numerous MVPs and you've taken the team to six championships -- and probably could have been eight if he didn't retire those two years -- and MVPs in the playoffs ... and he made us better.
"Believe me, he made myself, Scottie, B.J. [Armstrong], even Bill Cartwright who I love, he made us better players. He gave us that confidence. But first we had to earn his trust. And once we earned his trust you saw championship after championship."
Pippen took to Twitter to defend himself later Friday.
"For all of you that don't know, I played the game you keep watching and cheering," Pippen tweeted.
Later he tweeted: "Don't get me wrong, MJ was and is the greatest. But LeBron could by all means get to his level someday. "
The Heat closed out the Bulls with an 83-80 victory in Game 5 on Thursday, setting up an NBA Finals matchup with the Dallas Mavericks. A championship in his second career trip to the Finals could help solidify his legacy, but James already has put to rest one knock on his game, in Pippen's view.
"I'm seeing a great player, and a player that we've all admired for the last [seven] years of his career, but this [eighth] year here, he has really brought the complete package," Pippen said. "I've never seen a player that can dominate a game the way LeBron James can. He don't always have to score. He makes plays for other guys. But when the game is on the line and you need a shot to be made, he's going to make that play. He's shown that throughout this series that he can make big shots.
"I think there has always been a knock on him that he don't make the big shots down the stretch. Well, I think they can put that behind him now. He's a shotmaker. And right now he's a man on a mission."
Pippen, who won six NBA titles alongside Jordan in the 1990s, said the Bulls exceeded their talent level to reach the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat.
"They have to keep their head up and realize they had a great season," said Pippen, who attends most Bulls games in his role as team ambassador. "I think you have to take something positive from this season. I think this team really laid their hearts out on the line and played great basketball all season long, but I think we all know that (the Bulls) were overachieving to some degree.
"I think we realized we really didn't have the personnel to go all the way through the playoffs and be considered the NBA champions. This Miami Heat team was established to be able to really run through every team in the league, and they have been able to do that thus far."