Posted August 15, 2012

John Salley on Michael Jordan: ‘I just don’t think he’s the greatest player ever’

NBA

John Salley said Michael Jordan is not the greatest ever. (AFP/Getty Images)

Former Detroit Piston bad boy John Salley said that despite years of match ups against the Chicago Bulls in the 1980s and early 90s, Michael Jordan is not the greatest player that he’s played against.

Salley made the comments while on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio:

“I love Michael. I’m a Michael Jordan fan, like everyone else. I just don’t think he’s the greatest player ever. I think the greatest player I ever played against was Magic Johnson. Next was Larry Bird. Then Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The hardest guy I ever had to guard? Hakeem Olajuwon. …. The greatest player I ever played with? I played with Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen …. Isiah Thomas is the greatest player I’ve ever played with.”

Salley was drafted 11th overall by the Pistons in the 1986 NBA Draft. He played against Jordan and the Bulls in four playoffs over his six years with the Pistons, beating Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals from 1988 – 1990. The Bulls beat the Pistons in the 1991 conference finals.

By comparison, Salley and the Pistons lost to Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the 1988 NBA Finals but beat Los Angeles the following season in an NBA Finals rematch.


72 comments
dannycummins
dannycummins

I would like to see Magic, Kareem, and James Worthy line up against today's best. I can't believe there isn't more respect accorded Kareem's game on this board.  You know he is the all-time scoring champion with six rings, two different teams?  College championships?  Got a few of those.  NYC CHSAA champion? Check.  Sky hook?  Swish.

 

Kareem:  not some 7 ft. gifted freak, but a great athlete and one of the great athletic champions of the 20th century. Check into it.   

dannycummins
dannycummins

What is so wrong with what Salley is saying?  Jordan was great, no question. But Magic, Kareem, and Bill Russell are quite easily comparable on the all-time pantheon. And I quite agree with the view that Magic and Kareem are the two best, I just can't decide.  In the 1990s, the Chicago Bulls were synonymous with excellence and hard work, and Jordan came to define a very high threshold of competitive intensity, and that is a fine legacy.     

ToddSzatkowski
ToddSzatkowski

Jordan is the GOAT simply because he was the greatest competitor of all time. Other folks had better skills at different times, but if you are down 10 starting the fourth quarter, there is no one you'd rather have on your team. The closest I've seen in today's game is Bryant. As for Isiah Thomas, hmmm.... let's just say you can take the entire late 80s/early 90s Pistons teams and throw them away for all I care, as they played like complete thugs. All except Joe Dumars. The same goes for the early 90s Knicks.

KennyWalters
KennyWalters

Jordan 6 titles, perennial all defensive team, scoring titles multiple times, made big game winning shots, also knew when to pass it to teammates for better shots, improved his game throughout the course of his career, etc. Jordan is definitely on the short list for G.O.A.T. I agree with what some others have said about comparing across generations, but any man who can get that bum Scottie Pippen onto the top 50 team is pretty darn good.

JimFeldman
JimFeldman

Salley needs to stop smoking crack. Isiah Thomas? You've got to be kidding me, his name doesn't even get an honorable mention in the top 50 of all time. Many on this forum have correctly pointed out that it's basically impossible to compare players from different eras. I played for the Air Force in the 80's and the game has changed considerably since then, the players are faster, bigger, and stronger at all positions. There is no one from past generations, the 90's included, that could cover James, Durant, or Bryant; anyone that thinks so is delusional. Jordan is the only superstar similar to any of these three; imagine Bird's Celtics team lining up against OKC or the Heat, they would get run off the court; anyone believe Bird, Mchale, or ML Carr are covering a James or a Durant, or Ainge or Dennis Johnson vs. Westbrook or D. Wade, cmon people get serious. Imagaine the 73' undefeated Dolphins against any of today's NFL powerhouses, the Dolphins would get trounced. Multi-era comparisons are just unfair.

matt_schley2
matt_schley2

This is such a stupid conversation, honestly. You can't compare across generations. What made MJ so good? Well, his most amazing move was his sick fade-away. Now, 80% of the league can shoot a fade away as well as MJ did. The game is always evolving, and Lebron/KD would destroy any player from the past because they've taken all the moves that made those guys the best, and they actually made those moves better... The only thing you can do is compare how dominant they were in their era. If you do that, then you have an argument with MJ. Although, I think you would have to lean toward Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. Oscar Robertson is overlooked way too often, as well.

AnnieMalcayo1
AnnieMalcayo1

Danny Manning could be the greatest player if it wasn't for his knee injury. 

jomodamusicman
jomodamusicman

The greatest, this line up cannot be topped.  My starting 5   three guards Big O, Magic &  MJ,  Power Forward Hakeem Olajuwan and center  Shaq because no one man in the history of the game can stop the Diesel.  And don't tell me Olajawon is not a power forward, but he is on my team

KevinHolley
KevinHolley

SALLY..... SOME BALLERS JUST MAKE IT ON HEIGHT ALONE,LOOK N THE MIRROR DUDE,HOW MANY NITEMARES HAVE U HAD OF MIKE 

LzyStormtrooper
LzyStormtrooper

too bad none of that skill translated into evaluating talent

depano.joserene
depano.joserene

Greatness of a player is to be taken in proper context. Michael Jordan was a great individual player, just as Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain were. But other great players like Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson showed their ability to succeed as team players. Jordan had been fortunate to combine his individual greatness with very good teammates such as Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, plus superb motivational coaching from Phil Jackson. 

 

Great individual players can impose their will to win and in fact had won a number of NBA championships, but great team players had shown more ability to win more titles and in fact did. Or to put it in a better way, great teams had been more successful than teams with one or two great players.

PatJardine
PatJardine

great to see a man voice is real opinion without being influenced by everyone else

Petkopova
Petkopova

You can't pick THE best player in any sport across generations. All you can do is name the best five or six or so.

Lufts
Lufts

Thank you!!!  People have forgotten how the Jordan phenomena started.  Bo Jackson had been the center of the Nike PR machine and just as Jordan made his name in the NBA, they needed a new focus.  Yes, he was a great, clearly a top 5 player.  But frankly, no one has EVER done what Chamberlain did, and to simply ignore Oscar Robertson, or Elgin Baylor or even Mikan?

Mark G
Mark G

I really think that all this "Jordan willed his team to win" is an overdone statement, and takes away the efforts and accomplishments of other great players in history who have done the same thing with their teams. Did Bill Russell not will his team to win? Not once in his 13 seasons did Russell miss the Conference Finals. He never lost a series that went to Game 7. He was the only constant in Boston's first 11 championships. His will to win was so intense that he threw up before games. 

Chris10
Chris10

All the guys he mentions except Jordan had hall of fame talent with them unlike Jordan.  He made Pippen great.  Without Jordan, Pippen is a quality starter and no more than that, with Jordan he became great.  Magic is great but he had a much better surrounding team than Jordan as did Bird.  As for Thomas HAHAHAHAHA.

wizkid
wizkid

I believe MJ was the GOAT on his era but not necessarily all eras. Point well taken from John Sally's. EMJ on the other hand made a huge impact on the game of Basketball where it matters most. MJ just highlighted it more in the media. That's why or how this 'greatest of all time' myth I believe was created. It's more of a media thing than what it says or shows behind the scene.

nfinitwordsfoto
nfinitwordsfoto

I respect what John Salley has to say and he's entitled to his opinion.  He's way more knowledgeable about these guys than I am since he played with or against them all for years. That said, I still think Jordan's the GOAT and I wonder if maybe Salley was taking a bit of a pot-shot at him.  No way Thomas was better, not even close.  Unless he's talking about their jobs as NBA execs.  Then they're about even. 

Strange Apparition
Strange Apparition

John Salley is a smart man. I see a lot of people commenting here about Jordan's "ability to assert his will over the entire game." Gentleman, that was Magic Johnson's forte. Showtime existed because Magic had a generalship of the floor that was absolutely unmatched. If you want even more proof, look at the last couple seasons of Johnson's career, after Showtime was essentially slowed down to the "Late Show." Watch Magic direct traffic like a quarterback calling an audible at the line of scrimmage. Defenses would break before the man. And, if somehow that failed, Magic STILL had the offensive firepower within himself to simply make things happen. The Lakers made the finals 9 times in 12 years with several very different line-ups. The only constant on the Lakers team through all of it was the Magic man himself.

lionoah
lionoah

Straight up I never thought Jordan was the greatest player ever hands down. Arguably, yes, but it's not a slam dunk folks. Jordan had a coach who won 55 games without him, let's not forget. How many titles did Shaq and KObe win without Jackson? They were/are great players but Phil Jackson was JUST as important to those Bulls teams as Michael was, and maybe more important.

 

So, the point is that those championships he won were won as part of a team. He was the dominating factor sure, but Wilt Chamberlain, Russell, Magic and a host of others have a say here. People always talk about putting Jordan on another team and saying how many title would they have won. Had Jackson coached say, the Blazers with Drexler or the Suns with Barkley, or the JVG Knicks - all good to great teams but Jackson as the coach gets a ship for EACH. Jordan as a player, i'm not so sure. Jordan was great, but there are others who dominated the game more than he did, and there are still others who won more championships, and his coach had tremendous success even after he retired.

 

Fact is, Jordan never won a thing without Phil Jackson...who's to say that ANY coach would have gotten 6 ships with Jordan playing on his team?

DkBzmn
DkBzmn

 @jomodamusicman You line up against mine; 1 - Magic, 2- MJ, 3 - Bird, 4 - russell, 5 - Wilt. I bet my lineup wins against yours 6 or 7 out of ten

IsmarSarajlic
IsmarSarajlic

 @depano.joserene you dont know what the hell youre talking about. jordan won 6 titles and if there wasnt his retirement, he would have won 8. he was the most unstoppable force in nba history and superb on defensive end. he averaged over 6 assists throughout his career. combine that with over 30 ppg and like 38 in his prime and he gets almost 50 points for his team all by himself. he has the best per in nba history also. everyone "combined" their greatness with others, your magic and bird included. jordan just did it better. 

jomodamusicman
jomodamusicman

 @Petkopova   iN THE NBA, You'll have to actually name the top Twenty.  Narrowing it down to the top five is impossible.  Just like on my team, I used Shaq at center.  It could have easily been Wilt, Kareem, Olajuwan, Russell.  I just made Olajawon, a power forward but it could have easily been The Big E, either of the  Malone Boys (Carl or Moses), Bird or a small forward Elgin Baylor (who by the way was only 6'5" but had more rebounds than most big men of today).  my three guards can't be topped in any era.  Most, of the young fans don't know the Big O, averaged a triple double for a season and almost another season.  He could jump, shoot and pass 

jomodamusicman
jomodamusicman

 @Lufts   Don't even try that, players that played before Blacks entered into the NBA.  If they didn't play against the best how can they be one of the best

gruck24
gruck24

 @Lufts ur right the big o is the greatest all around player that ever lived.a consummate pro in every sense.form high school to college to the nba always tremendous professional ability on and off the court

KennyWalters
KennyWalters

@Mark G How many hall of famers were on those Celtics teams? 6? 7? Russell was great, but he was also surrounded by greatness. That's why those teams were phenomenally dominant for a decade plus.

dutch3571
dutch3571

Without Pippen/Rodman/Grant and Phil, Jordan might win 1 or 2 rings but not 6

jomodamusicman
jomodamusicman

 @nfinitwordsfoto  Thomas was not nearly as great as any of the top (4) Big O, Magic, MJ or KOBE.  Don't get me wrong Thomas was very good about even with Drexler, and the next great group of NBA guards like West, Archibald, Bernard King or The Answer (Iverson)

pcwhite2
pcwhite2

 @Strange Apparition 

Thank you, Strange.  Magic took his team to the 1991 Finals (where the lost to Jordan and Pipen) on two bum knees.  He had Vlade Divac "replacing" Kareem, and they still won 63 games.

 

Magic could, and did at times, play all five positions.  At the age of 20, he took Kareem's spot at center in the 1980 Finals and went off for 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assist.  20 years old.

 

Magic is the GOAT.

rphillips319
rphillips319

 @lionoah And magic and the lakers had Pat Riley.  People hate ballers these days..

Tito1
Tito1

 @lionoah I'm a huge Jordan fan, but this is the first time I read a comment that makes sense and makes an argument about him not being GOAT... Yes, a coach is always under appreciated in any sports, specially a hero-ball league like the NBA, and there's no doubt Phil Jackson was a huge part of Jordan's team success.  But the mindset he had, the feeling for the game, the drive, the skills, the IQ, all that put together makes MJ probably the GOAT.  But I see your point, and it's difficult to me to admit that makes sense, but it does lol 

johnaconner
johnaconner

 @lionoah that's a good point about Phil Jackson, but it's still hypothetical speculation, isn't it. Bottom line--no player, day in and day out, dominated the game for as long as Jordan did. And that takes nothing away from the greatness of Wilt, Russell, and Magic, and add Larry Bird, Kareem, Willis Reed, Bog Cousy and Jerry West to that list.

jomodamusicman
jomodamusicman

 @DkBzmn  @jomodamusicman   It would be impossible for your team to beat mine because you'll trying to use two of my players Magic & MJ.  NOW , u know that's illegal in the NBA.  Also Wilt & Russell on the same team both or nothing but centers.  ALSO, we all know Bird can't JUMP

matt_schley2
matt_schley2

 @DkBzmn  @jomodamusicman Screw that... 1. Magic, 2. Lebron, 3. Kevin Durant, 4. Tim Duncan, 5. Bill Russell... That line-up is un-guardable, and plays solid defense.

depano.joserene
depano.joserene

 @IsmarSarajlic  @depano.joserene Please read my comments again. I didn't say which player was better than whom. I said some players were great as individual players while others as team players. Russell won most of his championships with defense and good teamwork and the level of competition was much less. Jordan's success was different than Russell's. Don't take the comments out of context. They're clear as day what they mean.

chilloutevryone
chilloutevryone

 @IsmarSarajlic of course, there wasn't a team like the Lakers or Celts to contend with during Jordan's run.  He was the most athletically gifted player ever to take the court.  But give me a player to draft and there's Magic or Bird and no close second...  They were great and made the people around them great.

jomodamusicman
jomodamusicman

 @KennyWalters  @Mark  OK, he had Sam & KC Jones, Satch Sanders, Havlicheck, Cousy and a bunch of other White Boys who could not make any of todays  team except on the Good Ole Boy System.  Like Don Nelson, some of them also are in the Hall of Fame

el80ne
el80ne

 @dutch3571 You can say that about any player. Think Magic would have done anything without Worthy/Kareem and Riley? Maybe one championship like he won with Westhead. Not five.

KennyWalters
KennyWalters

Actually, Mychal Thompson replaced Kareem and then Divac replaced Thompson.

rphillips319
rphillips319

 @Tito1  @lionoah People the Lakers had Riley who was the phil jackson of that time, the celtics had Red, jordan did it like no one else ever.

lionoah
lionoah

 @Tito1 Hey, I'm not a Jordan fan but with his skills and everything, he is maybe Isaiah Thomas and gets a repeat. Maybe 1 or two more ships just for good measure. Or maybe he's Olajuwon and gets 2. Jordan was a different player with Phil Jackson. A lot had to do with his maturity, hunger, drive and everything else, but Jackson proved himself when he went to L.A. and got a 3rd (!) three-peat, lost another one, and then a repeat! Jackson gets a lot of credit, but without him Jordan doesn't have 6 titles. Think Kobe wins 5 without Jackson?

lionoah
lionoah

 @johnaconner Sure it's all speculation, even the subjective answer to the question of GOAT. The fact is Jordan had marginal success without jackson, while Jackson went on to another 3-peat and then a repeat. Would Jordan have grown as a player the way he did without Jackson, realizing the importance of team? I think the best thing that ever happened to Jordan's career was Phil Jackson.

jomodamusicman
jomodamusicman

 @pcwhite2  @chilloutevryone  @IsmarSarajlic   Russell, didn't make his players play better.  He, just settled down and out played entire teams with his defense alone.  He used to break my heart every yr when I was a Cin'ti Royal Fan every time we would get close it was Russell blocking somebody shot and knocking the ball down court for the Jones Boys then Sam would take that long twisting jump shot and LIGHTS OUT FOR US.

rphillips319
rphillips319

 @pcwhite2  @chilloutevryone  @IsmarSarajlicYou must being doing some serious drugs.  I knew you had no idea what you were talking about when you started with Drexler jumped higher and was faster, I guess you were blind in the 80 and 90s.

Coach P
Coach P

Are you seriously comparing the 90-91 Celts and Lakers with their mid 80s counterparts?  Take a look at age, injury, and the thing often over-looked EXPANSION.  Case in point, the Celts had no Danny Ainge or Dennis Johnson, instead they had a backcourt of Kevin Gamble and John Bagley (yes, John Bagley).  The league became diluted upon the addition of the Heat, Hornets, Magic, and Raptors.   Imagine if you took some of the players from those teams and assigned them to existing teams?

 

Graylen
Graylen

"there wasn't a team like the Lakers or celts to contend with during Jordan's run" Are you serious? You had Magic still with the Lakers, Bird with the Celts, The Bad Boys, The Knicks, Portland and Utah. Hell even the Cavs were good then! He ran through them all the 1990-91 season.

pcwhite2
pcwhite2

 @chilloutevryone  @IsmarSarajlic 

 

He wasn't even the most athletically gifted - Wilt Chamberlin was.  Hell, Clyde Drexler jumped higher and father than Jordan.  

 

Chillout is correct.  My issue with Jordan - the great competitor that he is - is that he did not beat any great teams to win his rings.  Utah was the best team he played, and they were just very good (Malone, Stockton, Hornacek).  The Jazz should have won one of those series.

 

Salley is correct - Magic is the best, then Russell, Kareem, Jordan, then the Big O, with Wilt (not enough rings given his abilities) and Bird (West, Kobe and Dr. J rounding out the top ten).

jomodamusicman
jomodamusicman

 @KennyWalters  @Mark  Now, Russell & KC Jones were both on that great San Francisco Team that won back to back NCAA Championships beforeJoining Celtics.  When Russell & then Wilt  hit the NBA< every Team had to go out and get them a BIG BLACK CENTER, so they could compete with them. First, I credit Russell & then Chamberlain and their  Talent for fully intergrating the NBA