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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar questions Scottie Pippen's argument that LeBron James ‘may be the greatest player to ever play’

May 31, 2011 |  9:23 am

6a00d8341c506253ef01538e94dae3970b-320wi-1In a nearly two-week span, former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went from questioning the Lakers' loyalty to questioning Scottie Pippen's claim that LeBron James "may be the greatest player to ever play."

After arguing that the Lakers' failure to honor him with a statue serves as an example of the team disrespecting him, the NBA's all-time leading scorer is now arguing Pippen's willingness to prop up James on the heels of the Heat-Mavericks NBA Finals matchup reflects his lack of appreciation for NBA greats such as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and even Pippen's former teammate, Michael Jordan himself.

You may agree with Abdul-Jabbar's assessment that a statue honoring him is long overdue and that he holds the credibility to question Pippen's knowledge on NBA history. You may disagree with the tactics, believing his public gripes about the Lakers come off as sour grapes and chastising Pippen comes across as bullying. But it still makes for interesting reading.

So without further ado, here is Abdul-Jabbar's open letter to Pippen, which was recently obtained by The Times:

How Soon They Forget: An Open Letter to Scottie Pippen

Dear Scottie,

I have nothing but respect for you my friend as an athlete and knowledgeable basketball mind. But you are way off in your assessment of who is the greatest player of all time and the greatest scorer of all time. Your comments are off because of your limited perspective. You obviously never saw Wilt Chamberlain play who undoubtedly was the greatest scorer this game has ever known. When did MJ ever average 50.4 points per game plus 25.7 rebounds? (Wilt in the 1962 season when blocked shot statistics were not kept). We will never accurately know how many shots Wilt blocked. Oh, by the way in 1967 and 68, Wilt was a league leader in assists. Did MJ ever score 100 points in a game? How many times did MJ score more than 60 points in a game? MJ led the league in scoring in consecutive seasons for 10 years but he did this in an NBA that eventually expanded into 30 teams vs. when Wilt played and there were only 8 teams.

Every team had the opportunity to amass a solid nucleus. Only the cream of the basketball world got to play then. So MJ has to be appraised in perspective. His incredible athletic ability, charisma and leadership on the court helped to make basketball popular around the world -- no question about that. But in terms of greatness, MJ has to take a backseat to The Stilt.

In terms of winning, Michael excelled as both an emotional and scoring leader but Bill Russell’s Celtics won eight consecutive NBA Championships. Bill's rebounding average per game is over 22.5 lifetime, MJs best rebounding years was eight per game (1989). But we will never know exactly how many shots Bill Russell blocked because again, they never kept that statistic while he played. However, if you ask anybody that played against Russell, they will just roll their eyes and say he blocked all the shots he wanted to block in the crucial moments of a game.

Bill played on a total of 11 championship teams and as you very well know, Scottie, the ring is the thing, and everything else is just statistics. So I would advise you to do a little homework before crowning Michael or LeBron with the title of best ever. As dominant as he is, LeBron has yet to win a championship. I must say that it looks like Miami has finally put the team together that will change that circumstance. Its my hope that today’s players get a better perspective on exactly what has been done in this league in the days of yore.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hooks over the Celtics' Robert Parrish in 1987. Credit: Carol Francavilla / Associated Press