LeBron James is in the middle of a historic hot streak, and his recent play provoked Scottie Pippen to ponder whether James is in a class all of his own.
"No one can compare," Pippen told the Miami Herald last week. "He's powerful, he's strong, he's big. He's the most complete player the game has ever seen."
During the 2011 playoffs, Pippen said "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." He even dared to suggest that LeBron was better than his legendary former teammate Michael Jordan.
"Everybody knocked me for it," Pippen said about those earlier comments. "I don't feel vindicated, but the numbers don't lie," he added.
James scored 32 points in Sunday's win against the LA Lakers, his fifth straight game of 30 or more points on 60 percent or better shooting. Only two other players in NBA history have accomplished such a streak.
But Pippen does not like comparing James and Jordan. "LeBron doesn't play the same way," he said. "If you want to compare somebody to Michael, I would say Kobe Bryant. He's got more that mentality."
"LeBron is a willing passer, plays more gracefully, bigger, easier. Michael was more flamboyant. There was more of a wow [element] of, 'How did he do that?' because people saw him being small doing all this stuff against giants. LeBron is a giant."
Because he is a giant, LeBron can play defense at a level Jordan couldn't dream of. "LeBron can guard the fastest guy on the floor and also has the size and strength to guard the biggest guy. Shaq would be the only guy he couldn't guard and he ain't in the league."
Pippen did say that Jordan was on another level mentally. "Mentally, Michael was more mature, not to take anything away from LeBron," he said. "Michael had four years of college under Dean Smith."
He also commented on Charles Barkley's theory that James' teammate Dwyane Wade has lost some of his explosiveness. "He's still at the top of his game,” Pippen said.
Understanding what it's like to play opposite a once-in-a-generation teammate, Pippen added, "The media is going to always kill him, because if you aren't playing up to LeBron’s level, you [allegedly] aren't who you say you are or who you used to be. That's the way I felt playing with Michael."