While Scottie Pippen thinks LeBron James has a chance to be the greatest player of all time, which would put him ahead of legend Michael Jordan, former Knicks coach and Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas isn’t so sure.
Appearing on the Stephen A. Smith Show on ESPN NY 1050 on Tuesday night before Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks, Thomas said the potential is there for James to match Jordan, but he’s not sure if James will ever surpass him.
“I think LeBron has a chance to eclipse Jordan if he continues to improve his game, but where they are right now, you still have to take Jordan as being the better player,” Thomas said. “Now, six years from now, if LeBron continues to add different facets to his game, then maybe you can have that argument and you can have that debate.
“Right now, Jordan was such a complete player on both ends, he was a great foul shooter, he turned into a 3-point shooter, he had mid-range game, he had low-post game, he was a lock-down defender and LeBron is getting to that in all those areas. Now, he hasn’t gotten there yet and we don’t know if he will get there. But if he does get there, he will probably only be equal to, I don’t know if he can ever be better.”
Thomas, who beat Jordan three straight times with the Pistons in the playoffs before falling to Jordan’s Bulls in 1991, said Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the best players of his era that he saw and watched and said they could be ranked 1a and 1b.
In the current series, Thomas, now the head basketball coach for Florida International, thinks James will get the first ring of his career as he predicted the Heat to take the series in seven games. Thomas said home court will be key, as the Heat has four home games, and he expects each team to steal one game in the opponent’s building but no more. Thomas also said free-throw and 3-point shooting will be critical components for this series.
“I think (Dwyane) Wade and Lebron together at the end of the day, their will, their talent will overwhelm in a seven-game series, but I do expect the series to go seven,” Thomas said.
As much as it’s been discussed that this series features two players in James and Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki who are searching for that first title for their legacies, Thomas did not think that neither player is buying into the idea that they need a championship ring more than their opponent.
He did add, though, that the championship ring, which he won twice, was something he personally had to attain in his career.
“Had I not won a championship, my career would not have been complete,” Thomas said. “When we were coming up in that era you were only judged by how many championships you won, and if you didn’t win a championship, you could never claim that you were the best. Times have changed since then and that was the criteria and how people were judged back then.”