Bulls

Most dynamic duo: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen or the Splash Brothers?

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Bulls Insider
Bulls

Editor's Note: Over the next week, NBC Sports Chicago and NBC Sports Bay Area will try to settle the debate about which is the best NBA team of all time: the 1995-96 Bulls or the 2016-17 Warriors. Check out NBCSportsBayArea.com for the Warriors perspective.

If we’re talking nicknames, the moniker hung on Steph Curry and Klay Thompson wins without a doubt.

'Splash Brothers' is so much cooler than... Well, did Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen even have a nickname? They were called Batman and Robin sometimes.

But if we’re talking most dynamic duos, it’s also no contest. The Bulls win.

Steve Kerr always has been too smart to wade into such debates, always first asking which rules are used for any such mythical matchup. And indeed, the league has changed so much between the time Kerr played as a reserve alongside Jordan and Pippen and coached Curry and Thompson. 

But from this vantage point, there are so many ways to analyze the impact of these duos and almost all of them tilt towards Chicago.

Let’s start with the duo’s records in the NBA Finals. With Jordan and Pippen, the Bulls went 6-0. The Splash Brothers of Curry and Thompson are 3-2 — with work still to be done? 

Granted, Curry and Thompson earn some, well, warrior points for advancing to five straight NBA Finals. The Bulls’ separate three-peat teams were interrupted by Jordan’s first retirement, minor-league baseball dream and the Rockets’ reign.

 

But Jordan earned all six most valuable player awards for the Finals in which he played. Curry has yet to win one. 

That doesn’t make Curry any less the heart and soul of the Warriors. But Andre Iguodala winning one would be the equivalent of, say, Toni Kukoc winning one while Jordan played. And Kevin Durant’s arrival to win two Finals MVP awards — and subsequent debate as to the best player on the Warriors actually was — is a debate that never happened in Chicago. 

The only debate regarding Jordan is whether he’s the best player of all-time, not best player on his team.

You want to bring in statistics and, specifically, 3-point shooting? This is where the game has changed the most, obviously.

The title-winning, 2016-17 Warriors attempted 559 3-pointers over 17 playoff games, shooting 38.6 percent. Over 21 playoff games following the 1997-98 season, the Bulls shot just 272 3-pointers and connected at a 32.4 percent clip.

But here’s the thing: In Jordan, Pippen and Ron Harper, the Bulls employed three of the most tenacious and versatile perimeter defenders in league history. Jordan and Pippen own 19 All-Defensive team selections between them.

More numbers: Jordan averaged 33.4 points in 179 career playoffs games with the Bulls. Pippen posted averages of 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds over 178 career playoff games.

For the Warriors, Curry has averaged 26.5 points over 112 career playoff games. Thompson is at 19.3 points and four rebounds over 123 career playoff games.

As for the matchups, the Bulls could try to wear down both Curry and Thompson by rotating Jordan, Pippen and Harper on them. That’s because Dennis Rodman could split time between guarding Draymond Green and Kevin Durant in this mythical matchup. 

Pippen obviously would spend the bulk of his time on Durant. However, Jordan’s defense is always the most overlooked aspect to his championship resume. He’d win his matchup.

Like this discussion, that’s not really up for debate.

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