LeBron James has just carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals. This will be his fifth straight trip to the championship round and his chance to win his third title in six chances. As James gains even more prominence in the NBA, the comparisons to Michael Jordan become increasingly regular. It’s a fun and easy temptation to compare NBA players and their levels of ability. Who is the better basketball player and by how much?
JORDAN IN CONTEXT: For those who did not see the majority of Jordan’s career, it’s important that I relay a message. Michael Jordan was not hype, cool shoes, and a marketable logo. He is not a product of people thinking things were always better yesterday. Jordan is the greatest performer in any team sport I have ever seen. His will and skill consumed everything about the game. MJ was so elite you could see his tangible efforts to motivate himself at times. He would often talk trash to an opponent to seemingly just piss himself off. He would hyper-focus and then take what he wanted. The Miami Heat retired Michael’s number out of respect for him punishing them on the floor so badly. Mike was that good.
JAMES IN CONTEXT: With zero rings in 2008, I believed LeBron James was already an NBA legend. No player has ever brought together the traits of power and finesse like LeBron. He is as unselfish as an all time scorer can be. His one scoring title was probably accidental on his part. LeBron is an icon of versatile play and leadership. Late in his prime I’m appreciating how special he is on the defensive end. “King James” has a bionic quality about him and a basketball IQ for the ages. James is on the level where his only professional goal, when he wakes up each morning, should be the journey to becoming the best player ever.
LET’S NOT COUNT THEIR RESUMES: We know how MJ has stepped on the throat of June and the NBA Finals. LeBron is a record-breaking, box score stuffing, winner himself. The biggest key is we have to respect that LeBron is far from done with his playing career. Let’s make their accomplishments the focus years from now. If we put the two players in a gym, in their primes, they would match up on a relatively even scale.
WHO IS BETTER? Michael was better. The detailed bits of difference are obvious to me. Jordan’s best hit a higher ceiling that LeBron’s has at this point. Michael’s game and its results were closer to perfect night to night. I’m keeping things in proper perspective. I’ts close my friends. LeBron’s game and body from outer space make it a discussion. In some ways “King” is getting better. People over-complicate it having to be so firm one way or the other. Jordan is the best I’ve ever seen, with that said LeBron deserves to be in the conversation. In 2015 James remains the top player in the world. He is likely to dominate for several more seasons.
KEY NOTES: I’ve watched players like Magic, Bird, Kobe, Duncan, Shaq, and the best version of Hakeem Olajuwon. I could be using their names in this article instead of James, but LeBron is the one in the Finals again. It’s still his time on the stage of greatness. He’s so awesome I must compare him to the best player I’ve seen.
I’m only rating the quarterbacks that I have seen play near or at their best in my time watching football. These will only be players from the mid 1980’s to 2015. I saw the great Dan Fouts for example (Jim Plunkett, Danny White, Joe Theismann), but will not include him in this ranking. I did not see him enough or at his best. Active players on this list remain in position to climb it. These are the 30 best quarterbacks I’ve watched play in the National Football League as of February 2015.
JUST MISSED THE CUT: (Bernie Kosar, Dave Krieg, Matt Hasselbeck)
#30– RUSSELL WILSON (Active) Three years ago I would not have guessed Wilson would have got my attention this early in his career. He has a knack for making plays at the right time. After throwing an interception to lose the Super Bowl, I would trust his attitude and self security to bounce back more than any player in pro football.
#29– MATTHEW STAFFORD (Active) Stafford has left me with some painful memories burning the Cowboys late in games. He gets rid of the ball at all kinds of odd angles. His banner season to date was 2011 where he passed for 5,038 yards and 41 scores.
#28– MATT RYAN (Active) His first pass a professional was a 62 yard touchdown. Ryan has been a star caliber player since and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. In only seven seasons he has 27 game winning drives.
#27– MARK BRUNELL (1994-2011) Mark was a mobile lefty who was sneaky good. He helped his Jaguars upset the Denver Broncos in the 1996 playoffs and was also part of a team that won a post season contest 62-7. Brunell played in three pro bowls.
#26– MICHAEL VICK (Active) Vick is the most dynamic runner to have ever played QB in the NFL. It seemed like he could run for eight yards on accident. For a short period of time, I thought Michael was one of the 10 best players in the entire league.
#25– ANDREW LUCK (Active) Andrew was a lock for stardom from day one. He’s bright, hungry, and has powerful legs. It is obvious he can make every throw and is a team first guy.
#24– RICH GANNON (1987-2004) Rich was a solid QB before he exploded for 105 touchdown passes over four seasons as an Oakland Raider. He ran the west coast offense beautifully and is the only athlete to ever be the player of the game at the Pro Bowl in back to back seasons.
#23– JOEFLACCO(Active) Flacco is a nice deep ball thrower who has already proven his big game credentials with 10 playoff wins. In his 2012 world title run he tossed 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
#22– PHIL SIMMS (1979-1993) Phil was part role player part star. His 22-25 passing performance in Super Bowl 21 remains the standard for completion percentage. It seems forgotten he was 11-3 as a starter before getting hurt in 1990. He set the table for another New York Giants championship.
#21– BOOMER ESIASON (1984-1997) Boomer was the first guy to use the no huddle offense for consistent stretches. He had a cool play fake where he would crouch low. Esiason helped the 1988 Bengals win the American Football Conference and he was named the NFL Most Valuable Player.
#20– RANDALL CUNNINGHAM (1985-2001) Randall was one of the most exotic talents to step on a field. He was an MVP Caliber player as a dual threat at the end of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Cunningham was at the top of his game as a pass first player a decade later leading the explosive Minnesota Vikings inches from an NFC crown.
#19– TONY ROMO (Active) Romo’s ability to escape defenders and extend plays is all time great. Tony was named “NFL Offensive Player of the Month” for December in 2009 and 2014. Even Romo’s biggest critics praise his toughness.
#18– PHILLIP RIVERS (Active) He annoys you if he’s against you, and you would love him if he was yours. Rivers is full of grit and competitive juice. Over his time in the NFL he has been the best of the second tier QB stars. He has quietly been building a resume that has a chance to become Hall of Fame worthy.
#17– DREW BLEDSOE (1993-2006) The Patriots had made the playoffs six times in 33 years before Bledsoe arrived. In his first five years they made the post season three times including a trip to Super Bowl 31. He stepped in for a hurt Tom Brady in the 2001 AFC Championship game to make help ensure his presence was felt in this modern New England dynasty.
#16– STEVE MCNAIR (1995-2007) Steve had a stout presence in the pocket and threw the ball with ease. He worked around lack of practice due to injuries better than anyone.
#15– DONOVAN MCNABB (1999-2011) McNabb rolling to the right on third and seven was a scary sight. He was an intelligent and crafty playmaker. He carried offensive units most of his career.
#14– ELI MANNING (Active) Manning was the most difficult player for me to rank. He is the owner of two of the sharpest post season runs in league history. Beating the 18-0 Patriots was the top upset of any NFL game in my lifetime. Eli is almost more clutch than he is good.
#13– WARREN MOON (1984-2000) Moon was not drafted by an NFL team so he tore up Canada instead. Even after losing years due to discrimination, Warren Moon lit up the National Football League. He was the smooth operator of the Houston Oilers run and shoot offense in the early 1990’s. He had a loud clear cadence and embarrassed those that doubted him by finding a permanent home in Canton Ohio.
#12– JIM KELLY (1986-1996) Jim played in the K-Gun offense in which he called his own plays. He was linebacker tough. Losing in four consecutive Super Bowls is an amazing, under respected achievement by his Buffalo Bills teams.
#11– KURT WARNER (1998-2009) Kurt was 1-2 in Super Bowls but owns the three highest passing yard efforts in the games history. Getting the Arizona Cardinals within a couple of minutes of a world title ensured his prominent place among passers.
#10– BEN ROETHLISBERGER (Active) Fans tend to mention that Ben played poorly in his first Super Bowl victory. They forget that he led the Steelers to three straight playoff road wins. During that stretch he completed 68% of his passes to go with seven touchdowns and one pick. “Big Ben” also made a game saving tackle at Indianapolis in the Divisional round.
#9– TROY AIKMAN (1989-2000) Legendary broadcaster Pat Summerall loved to gush over Aikman’s accuracy. Troy could throw the deep out with his eyes closed. He sacrificed his stats for footballs best running game. It paid off with three rings, a Super Bowl MVP, and a 13-4 record as a playoff starter.
#8– DREW BREES (Active) The Saints were in Dallas Thanksgiving day 2010. The Cowboys were up 27 to 23 with three plus minutes remaining. My stepdaughter texts me, “Cowboys are gonna win.” I wrote back, “Three minutes is a lifetime for Drew Brees.” Drew completed a 55 yard pass, followed by a 12 yard touchdown to win the game 30-27. Some guys are just too good to ever let you get comfortable.
#7– AARON RODGERS (Active) Aaron carries himself with the appropriate arrogance for his job description. He’s agile, with an accurate whip for a right arm. In the 2015 post season he led his team to victory on essentially one leg. As a move to throw talent, Rodgers is the best I’ve ever seen play the position.
#6– BRETT FAVRE (1991-2010) Brett was entertaining television. He had the enthusiasm of a young child and the swagger of Han Solo walking into a bar fight. Favre was a gunslinger to the core and earned the recognition of being an iron man. Counting the playoffs, Brett played in an incredible 321 straight games.
#5– DAN MARINO (1983-1999) Nobody had a cat quick release like Dan. He also manipulated the pocket with the best of them. NFL Films co creator Steve Sabol said, “Watching Marino in the pocket was like watching a great matador. With just a little bend of the waste, a jab step forward, a step back, he could avoid the horns.”
#4– STEVE YOUNG (1985-1999) What Dan Marino was to yardage and touchdown passes, Steve Young was to completion percentage and passer rating. He was a superior athlete who had no peer regarding clean, efficient play. Steve was consumed with the mental test the game of football provided. In the end he received an A plus.
#3– PEYTON MANNING (Active) Manning has made himself the face of preparation and in-game chess play. The five time MVP gets sacked less than any QB who has played. Peyton is smashing the NFL record books. You know you are unbelievable at football when you have 70,000 passing yards, 530 touchdown passes, a world title, and fans say you need to do more.
#2– JOHN ELWAY (1983-1998) Before winning consecutive rings to end his career many people claimed John was a “choker.” What I saw was a guy carry three pretty good Denver teams to Super Bowl losses while being the best clutch player in the AFC. Elway had the strongest arm I’ve seen and could throw the ball 50 yards across his body to the opposite side of the field.
#1– JOE MONTANA (1979-1993)& TOM BRADY (Active) This tie is not a cop-out on my part or an excuse to mention 31 quarterbacks. The selection is perfect for me right now. Montana has always been the clear-cut best QB of my lifetime. The morning of Super Bowl 49, I had Tom Brady a close second. After Tom’s dynamite fourth quarter, and taking home his fourth World Championship, I feel Brady deserves to be categorized as Joe Montana’s equal. Joe moved much better than Tom. Brady has been more durable and prolific. Joe played on slightly better, more dominant teams. Tom won big over a longer window of time with a higher variety of teammates. Joe was cool and Tom was fiery. They were the same guy from the neck up and the two best quarterbacks I’ve ever seen play in the National Football League.
I miss my brother Rusty. He was born 40 years ago today. I’m thinking of all of you who loved him. At this time of year he and I would be talking and arguing with each other every day about the NBA. Sports were everything to him. I dedicate this piece to his children Madalyn, Jayden, and Samantha.
#1 DON CRIQUI WAS HIS FAVORITE FOOTBALL ANNOUNCER: He had attachment to Paul James and Greg Wrubell. He really liked Keith Jackson. His favorite announcer was Don Criqui. While Russ was growing up Criqui was a play by play guy for college and pro football. Russ would say, “his voice is classic bro.”
#2 HIS FAVORITESPORTS SHOW WAS “INSIDE THE NBA” ON TNT:He always looked forward to Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley. He developed a sentimental attachment to the show and thought it was a perfect way to end an evening. Russ enjoyed the segment “gone fishin.” He thought Barkley was hilarious and would note how sad he was every year after the last episode.
#3 HE GUESSED RIGHT ON JASON ELAM: Russ told me, “keep your eye on this kicker Jason Elam. I’m not into kickers, but you’d want this guy.”Elam played 15 years in the NFL. He won two rings, played in three pro bowls, and once kicked a 63 yard field goal.
#4 HE HAD TO GO IN THE BYU BOOK STORE NO MATTER WHAT: Before every BYU home game, Russ had to stop in the BYU book store. It didn’t matter if he had a thousand dollars on him or no money at all. He thought it was duty to hang out in this store where people are piled in like sardines. He may buy another t shirt or hat, or he may just exchange something. He would make fun of me on the times I decided not to go in. We would meet in the hall and he would say something like, “Jay, scared of the book store.”
#5 KOBE BRYANT TOOK UP A LOT OF RUSTY’S TIME: Because of his battles with me, Russ was consumed with Kobe Bryant conversations for about 12 years. I can not stress to you how much of his time was spent talking about this athlete. My favorite Russ/Kobe moment came in the middle of the night in the gold medal game for the “Redeem Team.” It was August 24th 2008. The situation was unique because Russ and I were cheering for the same team but we always had personal agendas. His guy LeBron and my guy Kobe were on the floor together late in the game. The game was very close and only a few minutes remained. Russ texts me: “If Kobe is the best player in the world, this is on him.” I wrote, “that’s unreal and unfair of you.” He wrote “GIVE IT TO KOBE.”Bryant did come through as the hero in the end with multiple buckets, and Team USA won the game. It was classic Russ to hedge his bets. He had him self set up that if Kobe was the hero he could say, “See, told you Kobe should shoot.” But if Kobe failed he could prove how serious the failure was. We fought about Kobe to no end. This was one of few I felt like I won.
#6 TY DETMER WAS HIS COLLEGE FOOTBALL HERO: Rusty took that Heisman trophy personal. In his room he had a blue “Heisman Ty” on his wall. He claimed he was a bigger fan of Detmer after three years than I was a fan of Magic Johnson after seven. Russ thought Ty was the greatest college football player of all time.
#7 A NEARLY DROPPED BASKETBALL CARD GAVE HIM COMEDY GOLD: In late 1991 Rusty, Chris, and I were trading sports cards in my room. Chris was trying to walk across the room and fell backwards in clumsy fashion. All Rusty and I saw was a leg and a hand in the air holding up a valuable card. We heard Chris go, “I didn’t drop the card.” Rusty was in tears laughing. You did not want to do anything that Russ would perceive as “uncoordinated.” It was too valuable to his comedy storage. This moment was funny to Riggs the rest of his life.
#8 RUSS SPENT COUNTLESS HOURS TALKING ABOUT THE DALLAS COWBOYS: What I provided Russ in a listening ear for his BYU games, he provided me with his Dallas Cowboys takes and mostly support every morning after Dallas had played. He knew it was my passion so he gave a re cap over several messages every single time they competed over the last 20 years. In the first 10 years of knowing me he was a bit more against Dallas. Being a Steve Young fan was a factor in that. Over the last 10 years he was more supportive regarding my team. I believe it was his way of thanking me for supporting his Cougars.
#9 HE FOLLOWED THE 1993 AMERICAN FORK HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM UP CLOSE: Rusty proudly stood behind the gate right near the field of every game of his senior season. The team was very good on defense and Russ was it’s biggest fan. In class, he would tell the players things to keep them motivated. He always took his teams serious. He had full access to this one.
#10 HE MADE JOHN BECK TALK AND THEN SAID NOTHING: By cool circumstances Russ and I were both assigned to do some interviews after a late summer BYU football practice in 2004. We were interviewing a young John Beck and only Russ and I remained. We turned our recorders off. Russ said to John, “Dude you know your’e better than these guys. I expect to see you starting soon.” Beck went instantly to his level and said, “ya coach has told me in private I’m the guy and I just have to put on a happy face.” As we walked away I told to Russ what a story Beck had just handed us. Russ said, “ya, I’d never do anything to hurt the team.”
#11 HE WAS A BIG PATRICK EWING FAN: He was a “Ewing guy” while I was an “Olajuwon guy”. Russ loved the big mans ability to turn and shoot. He would use a couple of Ewing’s pet moves when he played. We were stoked Patrick and Hakeem went head to head in the NBA Finals in 1994. I came out on top as Olajuwon out dueled Ewing and won in a classic seven game series. Russ (who was a master at any argument) used for the rest of our lives that the battle between those two players meant less in our arguments because Russ did not see it because he was on his mission. If Ewing would have won, it would have counted 100%.(FYI)
#12 LEBRON JAMES WAS HIS FAVORITE NBA PLAYER THE LAST 7 YEARS OF HIS LIFE: Russ called LeBron “the most unselfish super star of all time.” He enjoyed his blend of power and finesse. He also used James as a weapon to battle with me over Wade, Bryant, and even Michael Jordan.
#13 RUSS BELIEVED NCAA FOOTBALL WAS THE BEST, THE BADDEST, PERIOD: He adored college football. He loved the tradition, the names and mascots of the schools, polls, bands, and the rivalries. Even as college football developed more flaws, he would defend it at all costs.
#14 HE WATCHED OSTERTAG OUTPLAY DUNCAN UP CLOSE: Russ sat in the second row as promising big man Greg Ostertag out played future legend Tim Duncan. Rusty always used this as his “every dog his day” example. As the years went on Russ thought it was cool how close up he was to the action.
#15 HE COULD THROW A FOOTBALL: Playing football was not his forte like basketball was. Russ threw a nice football. I saw him many times jump into four on four football games, and play QB for both teams. He would start hot and end hot. He remembered every pass I’ve ever dropped in his presence.
#16 HE BELIEVED BEING AT THE GAME WAS BETTER THAN TELEVISION: He looked at being at the game as a badge of courage. He thought if a fan lived within a reasonable distance of a stadium and had the means to go, there was no excuse to not be there.
#17 RUSS GAVE ME CRAP ABOUT MY “NBA LOYALTY”: He was a true Utah Jazz fan. I’m a fan of individual players. I loved Michael, Hakeem, Wade, Stockton and others so my NBA love is distributed different than most. He thought my thinking here was complete garbage. Two of my favorites are Magic and Kobe so I spent a lot of time invested in the Lakers. He went out of his way to let me know, “you are not a Lakers fan, you are a Lakers observer.”
#18 HE WAS ON THE BLAKE GRIFFIN BANDWAGON FOR THE LONG HAUL: He said early in 2012 “Blake Griffin will be more than a show dunker. He will be a super star, mark my words.”
#19 HE WOULD NEVER FORGET ABOUT MY BAD SPORTS PREDICTIONS: I’ve made so many bad predictions. He remembers them all. I said Brian Griese would be a Hall of Famer. While Griese was a competent pro, I missed badly. Any time in later years Russ did not like what I was saying in an argument he would often go, “what’s that Griese?”
#20 FOR FASHION, EVERY TEAM WAS HIS: Remember his big, poofy Atlanta Falcons coat? How about the Orlando Magic or Howard University cap? He once saw a random Kendall Gill jersey down town he thought about for years. For him to own Lakers shorts screams how un bias he was when it came to fashion.
#21 HIS FAVORITE PRO FOOTBALL PLAYER WAS STEVE YOUNG: Detmer was his favorite pro, but Young was so good Russ had no choice but to become attached to Steve’s journey. Russ knew Steve made BYU look good. He celebrated the 49ers beating the Chargers in the 1994 Super Bowl. It was a huge deal that Steve Young had gotten out of the shadow of Joe Montana. Russ was in sheer joy.
#22 HE WAS ALWAYS INTERESTED IN LOCAL SPORTS RADIO: Even though Russ was not in awe, he was always so curious of local sports radio happenings. If someone was changing a time slot, or someone new was hired at a station he wanted to know or to tell me. He was like the “TMZ” of caring about it.
#23 IF ATHLETES WERE OUR AGE, HE WOULD FOLLOW THEM: He was bonded to athletes that were our age. It’s like he was tracking his athletic mortality. I often heard the names Alan Iverson, Ray Allen, and Alex Rodriguez as his examples.
#24 HE LOVED A SHOW CALLED “SPORTS BEAT SUNDAY”: It used to come on Sunday nights on channel five at about 1035 pm. It was a 30 minute show that ended with a segment called the “Highlight Zone.” It was hosted by Craig Bolerjack. Russ loved the beginning where Boler would say, “pull up a chair.”
#25 IF YOU MADE HIM MAD, HE WOULD PULL THE “MAILMAN” SIGNATURE MOVE ON YOU: On the basketball court Russ was a pretty calm character. When he got involved in an occasional trash talking session with someone or the competitive juices were extra high, I have a distinct memory. Russ would usually win and in the end of finishing someone off he would put his hand behind his head in cocky fashion before laying the ball in the hoop (like Karl Malone would).
#26 HE CALLEDIT EXACT ON BEN ROETHLISBERGER: In April of 2004 he called and left me a voice mail about Ben Roethlisberger who had just been drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. “Hey bro, since we both know you know nothing about college football, I wanted to give you a heads up. Ben Roethlisberger will be a Hall of Famer 10 years into his career.” Russ was right.
#27 A GAME CALLED STRAT-O-MATIC WAS KEY TO HIM: A game he played as a teenager called strat-0-matic helped shape how he judged and rated players. He would play this game with his Father, Spencer Smith, Ryan Standifird, Aaron Ellswood, MiKael Renae, and John and Gavin Jensen. He was way into this game. It was his video game, before video games.
#28 BEATING UTAH WAS ALWAYS IMPORTANT, BUT 2006 WAS HIS FAVORITE: November 25th, Salt Lake City. It was John Beck’s last chance to beat Utah. On an amazing play that seemed to last forever, John Beck hit Harline in the end zone. This was one of the top victories in this rivalry. Russ stayed after the game as long as they would allow him to. He celebrated with the players and said some meaningful things to them. He was happy to admit he cried. This was the victory I heard Russ talk most about.
#29 HE WANTED TO THROW THE BASEBALL WITH HIS SON: In his last couple of years Russ was having health issues. He would say, “I want to play catch my with my son. Baseball and a couple of mitts are all we need.”Russ and I were way more likely to have a football or basketball in our hands. He kept saying “I need to throw a baseball with Jayden.”
#30 HE ATTENDED THE FIRST EVER NBA ALL STAR JAM SESSION AND HELD IT CLOSE IN MEMORY: February 19th and 20th 1993. We left school at 11a.m. on Friday. We picked up my brother Jared Adams on the way to the Delta Center and attended the NBA’s first ever Jam Session weekend. Russ was in NBA heaven! The entire city was everything pro basketball.We met Julius Erving, Will Smith, and Jaleel White (“Steve Urkel”). Most importantly for Russ he met his favorite singer of Boyz 2 Men Shawn Stockman. Rusty said , “I need that second album baby.”Shawn pulled Rusty’s shirt with affection and said, “you gonna love it big boy.”
#31 THE 1992 DREAM TEAM IMPACTED RUSTY: The Summer of 1992 was Rusty’s most memorable summer. The Dream Team was at the center of the sports universe and attracting an entire globe to the game of basketball. We thought it was cool John and Karl were playing with Magic and we could not get enough coverage. We would also collect everything regarding this team. Russ claimed I liked to collect the McDonald’s Olympic cups for “an extra place for Jay to take a leak.” He felt lucky to witness a documentary on the Dream Team that was made in the summer of 2012. It was a nice rarity for him to say some good things about Scottie Pippen.
#32 HE GAVE HIS DAD CREDIT FOR HIS LOVE OF SPORTS: Rusty told me on his mission that his dad was the main reason he loved sports. Initially he brought up going to BYU football and basketball games with him. He went on to say that his dad participated in everything. From attending his games at school or church or playing together, Steve was always part of it.
#33 HE HAD A COOL CONNECTION TO CRAIG BOLERJACK: A few times after BYU basketball games we would wait after the game and talk to TV star Craig Bolerjack. We would get advice from him. The third time we met him it was almost like Russ was saying “I’ll see you in the business someday my friend.” Russ became a TV anchor and always had a soft spot for Boler.
#34 RUSS WAS A SPORTS ANCHOR AND HE WAS AWESOME AT IT: Have you seen Russ do his sports broadcasts in New Mexico? He was as smooth of a pro as you can get. I am so proud when I see him do this work. He was born to do it, and proved it.
#35 HE WOULD END UP IN POST GAME LOCKER ROOMS: As paying fans, Russ used to lead us down to the locker rooms after BYU home games in the Marriott Center. We would literally devise plans, have excuses ready for security etc. We would get down to the locker room and usually come away with a coaches stats sheet and gum that had been intended for players. Years later we spoke of how dangerous that was and that these days you would not get away with it. Russ just wanted to be around it. He loved it so much, just standing where the team had been moments earlier. Of course he did not eat the gum, it was something to remember his memory.
#36 THE LAST NBA GAME HE WATCHED WAS MAY 31st, 2014: The Spurs beat the Thunder 112-107 in overtime. He text me by mocking that Kevin Durant had fallen down and the Thunder had lost. He liked KD, but was programmed to compete with me through our favorite athletes or predictions etc.
#37 HE WANTED TO HEAR MY INTERVIEW STORIES OVER AND OVER: He enjoyed hearing the encounters that I’d had with NBA players. He loved the NBA so much that he had no problem hearing a cool story for the ninth time. He knew me meeting these players was him meeting them as well.
#38 RUSS HAD A NICE RAY CLAY IMITATION: Ray Clay was the public address announcer for the Chicago Bulls. Russ had a staple imitation, “Starting at center, “BIIIILLLLLLL CARTWRIGHT!!!!!!”
#39 HE WAS A FAN OF THE YOUNG VINCE CARTER: When Vince won the February 2000 slam dunk contest Russ called me as hyped as he could be. He was screaming per the air show Carter put on. Russ then adopted Carter to challenge me with two things…The hope Carter could become better than Bryant, and that Carter was a better dunker than Jordan. Russ loved the NBA as much as he loved competing with me.
#40 I REMEMBER A FUNNY THING HE SAID ABOUT MARK JACKSON: I was starting to appreciate Jackson as passer and told Rusty, “I am starting to like Mark Jackson”. He quickly responded, (laughing) “Liking Mark Jackson is the same as liking lettuce. You don’t really need to tell me.”
This years NFL MVP takes on a little more interest than most years. No player ran away with it and several guys deserve mention. To win this honor you need to have played for a team with a winning record. It’s an award slanted towards rewarding offensive skill position players. The following rankings are only for performances and circumstances in the 2014 NFL regular season. My 2014 NFL Most Valuable Player’s:
#12– Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers ) He has a nice hesitation step, and skips like a rock on water. Bell’s 1,361 yards led the AFC and are the most ever recorded without a fumble. Le’Veon carried the Pittsburgh offense down the stretch with his versatility. His 83 catches glued the Steelers offense together.
#11– Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks) Lynch has become the model power back of his generation. He sets the offensive tone for the defending world champions. When “Beast Mode” gets loose on long runs his team and fans get jolts of energy. Marshawn made more trips to the end zone (17) than any other player.
#10– Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) He visualizes himself having success on the field, and I keep seeing his positive results. Wilson has a knack for making timely plays. He reeks of intangibles and self security. To be 16th in overall rushing is impressive. His 7.2 yards per carry average was by far the best among the leading 40 rushers.
#9– Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers) The future Hall of Famer keeps carving teams up. Big Ben continues to shed defenders and is getting the ball out quicker. He set a Steelers record with 4,952 yards to go with 32 touchdowns to just 9 picks. In back to back victories over Baltimore and Indianapolis Ben put up a stunning 12 touchdowns, 862 yards, and zero interceptions.
#8– Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers) The 5-10, 180 lb. Brown just torched pro football. His 129 catches are second most in league history and his 1,698 yards are sixth. Brown adjusts nicely to deep balls and makes nice concentration grabs. In the Division title game Antonio scored on a 71 yard punt return and a 63 yard TD catch with three minutes left to seal the deal for the Steelers.
#7– Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts) Luck is full of heart, brains, and leg strength. He’s like the coolest nerd ever. Andrew won 11 games for the third straight year. Luck topped everyone with 40 touchdown passes and 10, 300 yard plus outings.
#6– Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) The story line regarding Manning this season ended up being about his advanced age, the slippage of his velocity, and some late year bruises. All he did was win 12 games, and throw for 4,780 yards and 39 touchdowns. He’s still the games best conductor and can almost think the ball to guys. When it comes to the way Peyton is judged, he is a victim of his own success.
#5– DeMarco Murray (Dallas Cowboys) Murray put on a show of endurance and toughness in 2014. The team was deliberate giving DeMarco the ball and he responded by having a record-breaking season. His 392 carries and a franchise high 1,845 yards were the identity of this years Dallas Cowboys. He added 12, 100 yard games and made the NFL All-Pro First Team. Murray playing five days after hand surgery was inspiration to his team blowing out the Colts to win the NFC Eastern crown.
#4– Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys) Romo played his finest ball in 2014. He led the NFL in QBR, passer rating, completion percentage and was 12-3 as a starter. Tony was by far the best quarterback in second halfs, on the road, and in December. His 133.7 passer rating in December was the highest total in the history of the month. He’s now embarrassed a league that did not draft him.
#3– Tom Brady (New England Patriots) After getting beat down by the Chiefs in week five, a large portion of the media yelled out that Brady was done and the Patriots had not provided him with adequate help. All Tom did is lead his team to seven straight wins that started off with a touchdown ratio of 18-1. The bridge to the season was built, and once again the AFC road to the Super Bowl goes through New England. Tom Brady is a football legend, who is not done chasing the title of “greatest ever.”
#2– J.J. WATT (Houston Texans) A defensive player on a non playoff team must crash this party. Watt is the best defensive lineman since Reggie White. It’s fair to say his current level is not just being the best pro player on D, but the best in the league every Sunday. J.J. is a grid iron warrior who can do it all. He finished the campaign with 20.5 sacks, 5 fumble recoveries and 5 touchdowns.
#1– Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) Rodgers reminds me that you want your pilot, surgeon, and QB to be cocky. His 38 touchdowns to 5 interceptions speaks for itself. The Packers finished undefeated at home behind his 25 TD’s and zero picks. Coming back from a calf injury in the season finale to beat Detroit for the NFC North title was a good look. Rodgers is the best skill position player in football. In the end, he was the easiest player to justify as my 2014 NFL MVP.
It’s only been a couple of months since my brother Rustin Riggs passed away. While BYU football and sports were his top passion, music was next in line for Rusty. It was a close second. He loved a genre of music called “New Jack Swing.” This was an R & B sound who had it’s hey day was from 1986 to 1995. He took his music seriously. He created deep thoughts about music he loved. He broke it down, organized it, and ranked things in order of how much he liked them. Rusty followed these bands well after their retirements. He had a sincere desire to know how all of these people were doing in life. He always kept me informed. I’ve noticed as I mourn his loss I’m thinking about his music initially more than his sports. He influenced that large branch of music I love as well. This music listed represents his softer side and is mostly over one era of time. He also liked Sublime, The Chili Peppers, and 3-11. Back in the day I remember him digging Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, and Paula Abdul (I’ll defend his ego by telling you he did not like “American Idol.”) He also became a fan of some “hairbands.” This is not a list of Rusty’s favorite songs or the songs I’d guess he loved the most. These are the 70 songs that remind me most of Rusty.
HONORABLE MENTION: I’M READY, BROWN EYED GIRL, ALONE WITH YOU, CAN WE TALK, (Tevin Campbell), IT’S LIKE THIS AND LIKE THAT (Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog), STILL (Brian Mcknight), KNOCKIN DA BOOTS (H-town), SWEET NOVEMBER (Troop), IN MY DREAMS (REO SPEEDWAGON), HIP HOP HOORAY (Naughty by Nature), I DON’T WANNA BE LONELY (Az Yet), I NEED YOU (3T), LAY DOWN YOUR LOVE (Four PM), MR. WENDAL (Arrested Development), AS ONE (Hi-Five), IV Example (I’d rather be alone),DEAR GOD (Boyz II Men).
#67 ALL THAT SHE WANTS (Ace of Base) Rusty loved going to “haunted houses.” We were driving to one with our friend Katie and her cousin. This song came on and after it was over the cousin started bragging “that song came out way earlier where I’m from.” With no hesitation Rusty goes, “That song is absolute steeeeench!”
#66 ANGEL-(John Secada) Russ became a big fan of Secada. He would remind me of songs he thought were “so good you are wasting your life away not knowing them well enough.” He was disgusted I didn’t know and learn these songs.
#65 LET IT SNOW (Boyz II Men & Brian Mcknight) It reminds me of he and I driving to the Marriott Center in the snow to see basketball games. It also reminds me of amazing friends we had from Highland, American Fork, Alpine, and Lehi.
#64 A SONG FOR MAMA (Boyz II Men) This song was instant gold. We saw Boyz II Men perform in Provo in 2009 with our wives Ruth and Emi. When the show began there was a movie screen that was listing all of the amazing accomplishments the group had achieved.. Russ said, “Sheer dominance bro! My entire body is tingling.”
#63 TODAY WAS A GOOD DAY (Ice Cube) Russ could always find the mood for rap. This Ice Cube performance reminds me of him and so does “Check Yo Self.” Russ owned the censored version of “Eazy- Duz- it” by Eazy E. We laughed while we rapped.
#62 DUST IN THE WIND (Kansas) He did not like classic rock. A couple summers in a row he told me “1970’s music sucks bro.” I’d tell him how ridiculous of a statement it was. He would follow it up by saying, “I do like that one song.” He would go on to poorly sing “dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.” He would add that he preferred music of the 1950’s and 1960’s to that of the 1970’s.
#61 IF TOMORROW NEVER COMES (Joose) Rusty thought it was awesome that Joose had performed this in front of original singer Garth Brooks and that Garth was thrilled with it. The song, like many reminded him of Ruth.
#60- SUMMERTIME (DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince) This was an easy one for Russ to like back in the day. It screamed cruising, relaxation, music, and girls. He loved to just drive around. He would grab himself some fruity, non carbonated drink.
#59 THESE ARE THE TIMES (Dru Hill) The nice sounding chorus drove his interest to this one. Russ was a strong and resilient person. He was also very loyal. When I needed advice or help with something, he was always there.
#58 I’D DIE WITHOUT YOU (P.M. Dawn) In our last school newspaper senior year there was a picture of Rusty and the caption read, “He was last seen wearing orange hunting socks, singing PM Dawn, looking for Jay Brandriet and Joe Both.”
#57 LITTLE THINGS (Boyz II Men) On his behalf I want to thank the following friends for the Summer of 1992. Clinton Monson, Nathan Smith, Katie Terry, Matt Hicken, Karin Monson, Andy Hicken, Danny Smith, Leslie Barron, Cory Hansen, and Garrett Davis.
#56 THANK YOU (Boyz II Men) It sounded right in his jeep. He got such relaxation by driving in his jeep with the top off. He liked to go through Alpine neighborhoods and pick out the houses he would like to live in. Thank you Russ for loving my brother Justin. You have been a powerful figure in his life.
#55 TILL YOU DO ME RIGHT (After 7) He had a friendship with this song. He loved the opposite sounding voices of the main two singers. If someone would swear in the early days, he would touch their bicep and say, “ya, tough guy.”
#54 RUMP SHAKER (WRECKX-N-EFFECT) Classic. Rusty loved to scratch the dashboard acting like it was a turn table. This is that sort of song. It reminds me of going to the “Purple Turtle” with him in Pleasant Grove.
#53 HE’S DOING YOU WRONG (Shai) When Russ would get a new cd he had been looking forward to he would always listen patiently from song one all the way to the end. He would rate each song and tell me which few jams to get to right away. He knew I wanted to hear the great songs first and milk them over and over. He was going to be fair to each note that had been sang. His response to hearing this song the first time? “Another nine for Shai, nothing new.”
#52 ONE LAST CRY (Brian Mcknight) This reminds me of driving to UVSC in the fall of 1993. I was excited to see my boys Russ and Heath Bell each time. I told Riggs I’d loved this new song. He told me, It’s an 8.2 . He already bought this album months ago. He said, “there is one other 7.9 on the album called “After the Love.”It was no surprise to me it was exactly a..7.9
#51 ALL MY LIFE (K-CI & JoJo) We saw them perform this from row 11. He loved his parents, sisters, and all of his family. This song spells it out well.
#50 WEAK (SWV) For some reason this one reminds me of how much he loved Beavis and Butt Head. When I would freak out at him on a voice mail, his first usual words back were, “settle down Beavis.”
#49 DREAMS (Boyz II Men) It reminds of him at his very happiest. He had an amazing, fortunate life and he knew it. I praised him many times for his television broadcasting career. I wish I could tell him now, that he was out of my league as a professional.
#48 U SEND ME SWINGIN (Mint Condition) If there were was something good out there, he would find it. I can still see him swaying his arms, snapping during this chorus.
#47 STILL IN LOVE (New Edition) He wasn’t into old school New Edition too much, but this one made him a fan.
#46 THIS IS MY HEART (Boyz II Men) Russ believed “Cooleyhigharmony” was the greatest album of all time. The group influenced his dress to some degree.
#45 ANYTHING (3T) These kids are related to Michael Jackson. Russ was all about this song.
#44 BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Queen) It reminded us of a movie. “Wayne’s World” had a huge impact on our lives. It wasn’t just a movie. It had social and behavioral influence on us. This Queen classic plays a huge role in the show and triggers memories.
#43 COULD (Brian Mcknight) The “Anytime” album made Russ officially on board with Mcknight and his talents. I appreciated the artist much earlier than Russ. When Russ loved he loved hard. By 1998 he was an even bigger fan of the great Brian Mcknight than I was.
#42 THANK YOU IN ADVANCE (Boyz II Men) This song reminds me of him becoming a husband and a family man. His intentions regarding his wife and kids were perfect. He found this song to be thoughtful and clever. It was also him soaking up the groups continued dominance in the R & B world.
#41 VISIONS OF A SUNSET (Shawn Stockman) This was Rusty’s favorite singer in Boyz II Men in a solo. Riggs loved “slim” claiming he was the most talented in the group. Russ told Slim this in 1993 at the “Delta Center” in Salt Lake City.
#40 SUKIYAKI (4PM) This was the first sound released off Four PM’s debut album “Now’s the time.” Russ fell in love with the song immediately. He nagged me for weeks until I had it. What he thought was unique about this record was, “you can play it from start to finish and not skip anything.”
#39 ALL AROUND THE WORLD (Boyz II Men) Rusty was on his mission in the fall of 1994. I was driving home listening to Boyz II Men’s much anticipated second album. I knew he had the cassette as well with him in Louisiana. When they sang the line, “Boyz II Men, back around the world, and were comin through your town,” I remember getting goose bumps and being happy for Russ.
#38 NEVER GONNA LET YOU GO (Hi Five) This one reminds me of driving with him to dance clubs and our homey Craig Christiansen.
#37 YOUR’E NOT ALONE (Boyz II Men) Another Christmas one he was in to. It reminds me of what a sentimental person he was. His heart was pure. The very details of memories were not just fun for him to live, he liked to recap his life and his times.
#36 SHOW ME THE WAY BACK TO YOUR HEART (Brian Mcknight) He was listening to this a lot when he and Ruth started dating. Russ was able to marry his dream girl. Good job bro!
#35 INFORMER (Snow) He almost was laughing at the song a little, but he gravitated toward the new sound and energy. We would stay up late watching videos on MTV while he would boss around his sisters.
#34 SHE SAID (Hi Five) If Russ thought Boyz II Men were the best and Shai second, he almost saw Hi Five as their little brother. Little, but still a brother. Every Hi Five track reminds me of Russ, but he lived to hear stand out songs like this.
#33 ALWAYS IN MY HEART (Tevin Campbell) He was so funny it was intoxicating to anyone around him. Songs that meant so much to him like this one, will keep him alive forever.
#32 FOREVER MY LADY (JODECI) Everyone wanted to hang out with Russ. I watched him become part of a group of friends that were mine first. Not only did Russ become the leader, people would try to take on his character traits. Everyone tried to be as funny as him. Everyone tried to tease each other. His personality was so bright, he sorta gave the group culture.
#31 MONA LISA (All for One) He thought All for One were pretty cool. He really enjoyed this song. It reminds me of covering high school football games with him at Wasatch High School.
#30 I’LL MAKE TO LOVE TO YOU (Boyz II Men) He took a few jabs at this great song some years back. Some of the words were lame and he hated the label his R & B music gave him sometimes. It could be used as love making music, sure. Russ loved the music itself. It made him feel great. It was like an emotional tatto to him. He adored this song. It was the first song released on their second album. He had recorded it off the radio in Louisiana and sent it to me in Salt Lake City before the single was even for sale.
#29 LOVE A LIFETIME (Firehouse) This reminds me of going to Salt Lake in his red truck. Of course he would find a rock band singing a love song. He liked to purchase the drink “Peach Ole” in gas stations. He would also embarrass me by asking workers “how many grams of fat” were in different fast food items.
#28 SACRED EMOTION (Donny Osmond) This song sounds right in line with a lot of the music he cared about. He was all about this 1989 Osmond tune.
#27 CRAZY LOVE (Brian Mcknight) This was the one that helped him turn a big corner in liking Mcknight. It was a Van Morrison joint that Brian sang in a way Riggs could relate to.
#26 BACK AT ONE (Brian Mcknight) This reminds me of us seeing Brian Mcknight in person. It reminds me of his first born child, Madalyn. Russ had more pride than most humans. His pride in being a father was off the charts.
#25 ONE SWEET DAY (Boyz II MEN & Maria Carey) He couldn’t help but add this to his great list. It had a sound and a meaning. It was played at his viewing.
#24 FOREVER LOVE (Color Me Badd) I play a song like this and I remember what a tender heart Rusty had. You’d have to have a good heart to love this soft hearted, lovey dove, well sang stuff. This song ranks way high on his best of list, and it reminded him of delivering pizza.
#23 DO THEY KNOW (Boyz II Men) A Christmas album from his boyz was quite a treat to give Rusty. This song is about Jesus and is beautiful music. It reminds me of he and I hanging out every day during school lunch.
#22 SOMEONE TO HOLD (Trey Lorenz) This one reminds me of playing in the “Roundball Ruckus” with him. Win or lose he was scoring points. He and I told some girls “we wrote the Trey Lorenz song “Just to be close to you.”You could say dumb stuff like that before there was internet.
#21 DO WHAT I GOTTA DO (Ralph Tresvant) He praised how near feminine Ralph could sound with his smooth voice. I was the last one among my friends to convert from cassette to cd. Rusty would take shots like, “Jay, driving a horse and carriage, listening to his tapes.” He gave me props for making this Tresvant album the second cd I purchased.
#20 YOUR LOVE (Boyz II Men) He enjoyed not just listening to this jam, he loved talking about it. He thought it was underrated and a real hidden gem.
#19 YES (Four PM) When the group sings a slow “Y-E-S” in the background during the chorus was his favorite part. He could have been the public relations person for this music group. He always wanted them to have put out more songs than they did.
#18 GLORY OF LOVE (Chicago) Before he had adopted R & B as his calling card, this was Rusty’s favorite song when he was 15 years old.
#17 WIN (Brian Mcknight) After hearing this song for the first time in the year 2000 Russ said, “this says perfectly how I want to live the next stage of my life.”
#16 COME AND TALK TO ME (Jodeci) Rusty liked that this song had thump, attitude, but still remained a great slow jam. A shout out on his behalf to American Fork High School class of 1993.
#15 TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO (Tevin Campbell) Tevin was a little “bubble gum” at this point of his career. Russ loved Tevin and wanted to review anything the guy would sing. He thought Tevin was a vocal phenom.
#14 TOGETHER FOREVER (Shai) Rusty noted how delicate and intimate this song was. He liked the song more as the years passed. He loved the harmony and talent of Shai.
#13 GIRL YOU FOR ME (Silk) He didn’t dig too many Silk tracks but this one had it all working. It reminds me of driving to his Grandma and Grandpa Waters house.
#12 CAN’T WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE (Hi Five) I’d guess he would choose this as Hi Fives best. It was a young perspective, but sang like R & B grown ups. It was radio friendly and the very first Hi Five song Russ had me sample.
#11 ROUND AND ROUND (Tevin Campbell) This reminds me of cruising around with him in the early days. He always wanted to do things and go places. He was pro active for an adventure. He drove 90% of the time (he would say right now that it was “98.1% of the time”).
#10 LATELY (JODECI) K-Ci and Jo Jo nailed this Stevie Wonder classic on an “MTV” special in the Fall of 1993. Russ had deep roots with this song. The opening part of the song was the part he enjoyed most.
#9 COMFORTER (Shai) He had elite praise for this one. He liked it’s tempo, it’s layered sounds, and the support aspect. His top singing line in it was “I don’t mean to disregard your feelings, but I think that he’s a fool, he don’t know how sen-si-tive you are, and baby that just ain’t cool.” The words look cheesy. Shai singing it is dope.
#8 BABY I’M YOURS (Shai) He admired Shai. He thought the best stuff they had could compete with anyone. This song was further proof to Russ that the slow jams he liked were becoming cool and mainstream.
#7 IT’S SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE TO YESTERDAY (Boyz II Men) Both of our first memory of the summer of 1992 is that we saw Boyz II Men sing this on Good Morning America. We called each other to celebrate it. This song IS Russ. A classic about loved ones passing away. “And I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain. It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.”
#6 I ADORE MI AMORE (Color Me Badd) He liked “All Eternity” and “The Earth, the Sun, the Rain” more as songs. This one reminds me of him more. It was on a mix tape he had as we would drive to Jazz games. The line that is him is..”Dream on, dream away, I think I’m gonna have to stay, stay forever.”
#5 I KNOW LOVE (Hi Five) On a December Saturday night in 1991 Rusty knew I had a few dollars to burn and he was going to MAKE SURE I got some new music. We went to Fred Meyer in American Fork and brought Hi Fives first album back to his parents house. Sitting in a cold driveway he told me, “This will help with your music taste”. He played this song.
#4 MOTOWN PHILLY (Boyz II Men) This was the bands original theme song in a way. That means it was Rusty’s theme song. When walking down the hall his senior year, guys would chant “Rusty Riggs, ABC BBD, east coast family.”
#3 END OF THE ROAD (Boyz II Men) It was not only number one on the charts for 13 weeks, it defined his favorite summer of all time (1992). This was the music group he admired on absolute fire accross America. He wanted to remind me, “I loved Boyz II Men when they were opening for MC Hammer at the the 49th Street Galleria.”
#2 CONFUSED (Tevin Campbell) I was stunned I ranked this number two overall. Since he passed, no song has gone through my head more than this one. Listen to the opening seconds of this song. “Every night I dream of places, I’ve never been to, so real it blows my mind.” It wasn’t the words that mattered to Russ the majority of the time. It was the sound, the vibration, the melody, this song was in his soul.
#1 PLEASE DON’T GO (Boyz II Men) From 1992 to the day he died in 2014, he believed this was the greatest song ever made. In his second meeting with Boyz II Men in 2009, he made sure they understood what the song had meant to him. His words impacted the singing group. Russ impacted my life on the highest level possible.
I’ve always thought Scottie Pippen has been disrespected by fans. It’s also been very over looked that he and Michael Jordan were an amazing duo. In a June 11th article on Espn.com Bill Simmons nailed the harmony the two players shared. In referring to a streak in which Jordan had not lost three straight games between December 1990 through the 1998 season, Simmons writes:
“Jordan’s genius during that run , at least for me, was in how beautifully he meshed with Scottie Pippen. You watched them together, running around in tandem and it was almost like Jordan spawned his own clone. Like Dr. Evil and Mini-Me. Only in this case , Pippen was two inches taller. Pippen moved like Michael, saw the court like Michael, jumped passing lanes like Michael and blended with Michael’s game like a non identical twin. It was crazy. I will never forget watching it for the rest of my life. Bird and Magic were geniuses, too, but shit, they never figured out how to replicate themselves.”
Scottie Pippen is the most disrespected NBA star of my lifetime. People go out of their way to put him down. It usually starts with “well Pippen played with Michael Jordan,” or “Scottie Pippen is not one of the 50 greatest players ever.” He seems to be the only target in that “Top 50” group that gets called out. I have heard fans go as far as “Jordan would have won the same amount without Scottie.” True, if he had Kevin McHale, Pau Gasol or Mitch Richmond instead. You would think Michael had won 72 games by himself in 1996. The truth is Scottie Pippen is one of the great, dynamic players in the history of pro basketball.
WHY HE GETS LESS CREDIT:
Scottie played and developed along side the greatest player I have ever seen in Jordan. There are natural perceptions I can understand where people assume the next best player on his team would be MUCH less good. Pippen seemed insecure in Michael’s shadow and may have rubbed some people the wrong way. Scottie did take time to become a star player. He needed a few years to gain physical and mental strength to find his potential. The Detroit Pistons beat him down for awhile and made him have to grow like most of us have to. There is the 1994 incident in which Scottie refused to check back into a playoff game because Phil Jackson had not called the play for him, only to watch Toni Kukoc go on to hit the game winning shot. It was a huge mistake on Pippen’s part. It gave his doubters unforgettable ammunition.
Pippen (with Grant Hill) was the new age point forward. Scottie took pressure off his team with his ability to handle the ball in the back court. He was Chicago’s distribution man and was a standout player on the fast break. Pippen could slash and finish on the highest level. He was long and one of the sports best athletes. Before he became a dangerous shooter, he created a nice array of bank shots. By his prime Scottie had added needed weight and muscle. Pippen is one of the finest defensive players to have lived. His defense on “Magic” Johnson cut the head off of the Lakers snake in the 1991 Finals and was a key factor in the series win. Jordan called Scottie a “defensive predator.”
From 1990 to 1998 Pippen averaged 20ppg, 7.3rpg, 6apg, and 2 steals.
He was named to seven different All NBA Teams.
He was named to the All Defensive team 1o times, and All NBA First Team Defense eight years in a row.
Pippen played in seven All star games (All star MVP in 1994)
He is one of only three players to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in the same season(Olajuwon and Jordan).
He is the only player to win an NBA title and Olympic gold in the same year two different times (1992 & 1996).
Pippen’s 395 playoff steals are the most ever recorded.
He was on the “Dream Team” and should have been.
THE MJ FACTOR:
Michael was such an iconic player that he forces a Hall of Famer like Pippen to play distant second. That fact has skewed Pippen’s NBA reality. Don’t forget that Jordan was Pippen’s teacher. Wouldn’t that be to Scottie’s extreme advantage? What about the fact that Michael claims his toughest challenge was in practice with Pippen? Scottie made the best better. Jared Adams watched the 91-93 NBA Finals several times to attain highlights. He would often say, “on quick cuts to the basket it’s easy to get MJ and Scottie confused with each other.” As a duo they were athletic harmony. While the basketball public wants to see it as “Michael carried Scottie”, I see it differently. On the podium after winning their fourth ring together Michael said to Scottie, “You are my MVP dog.” It was an important complement and the truth. MJ was the best, but him pushing Pippen to the level he hit, is what put the Bulls over the top.
WHEN SCOTTIE REALLY PLAYED WITHOUT MICHAEL:
Haters like to ask “How did Pippen do after he was done playing with Michael?’ Why do they ignore Michael left Scottie in his prime to go play baseball? All that Pippen did behind the wheel was led the Bulls to 55 wins and a tough whistle away from the Eastern Conference Finals. He led the Bulls in all five major statistical categories and finished third for league MVP honors. With Jordan in a dugout somewhere, Pippen was no less than a top five player on earth.
AFTER HE WAS DONE PLAYING FOR THE BULLS:
Scottie fought through back pain in game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals to help the Bulls seal their sixth world championship in Salt Lake City. The team was dismantled after this feat. Pippen had played 30,000 regular season minutes and another 178 playoff games by the time he parted ways with MJ. Scottie was a good player in a bad chemistry experiment in Houston. He was also a key cog to an all time deep Trailblazers team that reached game 7 of the Western Finals. Pippen’s teams made the playoffs in 16 straight seasons. Was he not allowed to age? What did Michael Jordan ever win without Pippen?
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Playing with Jordan was a huge advantage for Scottie in that he was led to winning and fame. There is also tremendous value in the competitive relationship they shared. Being his teammate also came with a huge price tag. A brilliant player like Pippen is seen as a very good tag along.
Scottie Pippen was not just the second best player on six world title teams. He was somewhere between the third and twelfth best player in the league, on six world title teams.