Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
One of the great laments from most sports fans is that some of the greatest questions that we have are essentially impossible to answer. Who is the greatest boxer of all time? Could LeBron beat Jordan in his prime? Could Tom Brady and his crazy high-powered offense from 2007 penetrate the “Steel Curtain” Steelers defense of the 1970s?
Most of the time we just yell at each other until we’re blue in the face and our throats turn an unnatural color of red, which is basically what Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen did online today when arguing whether the Bulls greats or the Lakers’ greats would have won if the two ever played in their primes.
Here’s the transcription of some of the argument in case you missed it:
Shaq: “We would beat em by fifty “what you think”. Let me know and don’t hold back.”
Pippen: “Sorry @shaq but I don’t get caught up in hypotheticals,” Pippen wrote in his caption. “All I know is we won 6 titles, twice the amount you claimed while in LA.”
Shaq: “Sorry @scottiepippen I don’t believe in hypotheticals either, but I seen most of those final you did ok , but this guy did most the work . #youwereok steve kerr and Ron harper deserve more credit than you , remember I WAS BATMAN YOU WAS ROBIN , I was PUFFY YOU WAS MASE…”
Pippen: “Easy big fella… if only you were as good at free throws as you are talking smack! @shaq”
From there it just went downhill. Shaq photoshopped Pippen in drag and Pippen broke out his rings and then it was pretty much all over.
So, how can you settle this impossible-to-settle argument you ask? Well, simple: You run a simulation 50,000 times, using the best statistical season from each of the five players listed as the all-time greats from each team, pit them against each other on a neutral court, and pretend that each player can play for 48 minutes straight without getting tired.
That’s exactly what PredictionMachine.com did, and after their 50,000 simulations, it looks like Shaq Daddy was right after all. According to PredictionMachine.com’s simulator, the all-time great Lakers beat the all-time great Bulls 64.3 percent of the time by an average score of 99.7-96.2. They also offered a pretty logical explanation as to why.
The roster construction by the Big Diesel is advantageous for the Lakers. Having two seven footers, Kareem and Shaq, going up against Rodman and Grant in the frontcourt isn’t really fair. A simple substitution of Artis Gilmore and Joakim Noah, two players who have had better careers with the Bulls, for Rodman and Grant makes the game more interesting.
In that scenario, Chicago with Jordan, Pippen, Rose, Gilmore and Noah still lose but on average the game is decided by less than a point.
The all-time greats for the Purple and Gold would win but Shaq’s assertion that the Lakers would dominate by 50 points is a far cry from the truth.
So there you have it. I’d say case closed but I’m sure there are now even more arguments that we could have about intangibles and other factors that didn’t come into play. So maybe the debate rages on, but perhaps we’re a little bit closer to uncovering the answer.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for either of his other three teams.