Former Chicago Bulls legend and six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen is not so convinced that Tom Brady is a shoe-in as the greatest NFL player ever.
Pippen, has made headlines as of late for his recently-released book, Unguarded, which features frequent criticism of Michael Jordan — the NBA’s widely-accepted G.O.A.T — and the amount of credit that Jordan receives for the Bulls’ titles, rather than Pippen (and the rest of the team itself).
Now, Pippen has a new target for his argument for team-based play trumping over individual success resulting in championships — Brady.
In an interview with GQ Sports on Thursday, November 18, Pippen questions whether or not Brady is the best ever.
“It’s hard to place Tom Brady at the top of the NFL,” Pippen said. “Even though he’s won a lot of championships. There are almost 70 players on each team, so is he playing on every side of the football? Is he on kickoff? Is he on the punt returns? Because if he ain’t playing all them roles, then he got to give credit to his team.”
Pippen’s Argument Has Flaws
While it’s true that there are 53-man rosters on every time — and individual players in the NFL don’t play both sides of the ball as basketball players do — the argument is a silly one. It basically strips the impact and value of any individual player based upon the argument that it’s a team game.
With all due respect, no one is going to be arguing that Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Tyler Johnson is as valuable to the team as Brady is all because it’s a team game.
Brady’s accolades simply can’t be debated — seven Super Bowl titles, 10 Super Bowl appearances, three MVP awards, five Super Bowl MVP’s, five All-Pro selections and a member of two different NFL All-Decade Teams.
And outside of those accolades, his value is immeasurable. It’s no coincidence the Buccaneers won a Super Bowl in Brady’s first season after missing the playoffs in the prior 12 seasons. In fact, prior to Brady’s arrival, Tampa Bay hadn’t won a single playoff game since the 2002 season.
That’s not even mentioning the fact that the New England Patriots suffered through a 7-9 season in Brady’s first year outside of New England — their first losing season since 2000. That just so happened to be the year before Brady became the starting quarterback of the Patriots.
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Pippen’s Argument Benefits Pippen
Again, this argument just seems to benefit Pippen. As great of a player as he was, he clearly was secondary to Jordan for the Bulls’ entire title run. And while one could argue the Bulls wouldn’t have had a dynasty without such an instrumental player such as Pippen, it’s also rather clear that Jordan was the building block.
May we mention how the Bulls failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs with Pippen as the clear-cut leader with Jordan retired during the ’93-94 season? Or how the Bulls were just 23-25 in ’94-95 before Jordan announced his decision to come out of retirement?
For perspective, the Bulls had won the championship in the three prior seasons.
That’s still not enough to convince Pippen of thinking otherwise, as he mentions in his book.
“We didn’t win six championships because he got on guys,” Pippen wrote. “We won in spite of his getting on guys. We won because we played team basketball, which hadn’t been the case my first two seasons, when Doug Collins was our coach. That’s what was special about playing for the Bulls: the camaraderie we established with one another, not that we felt blessed to be on the same team with the immortal Michael Jordan.”
As much as Pippen seems to deflect away from the value of a great individual player, there is a pecking order in team sports — and Brady and Jordan are at the top of the mountain.