ESPN (and every sports reporting institution, for that matter) has been blowing up over the 50th birthday of Michael Jordan for the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to comment on a few of my observations, opinions, and concerns regarding basketball and specifically the Association Basketball National. I’ve limited myself to one sports post per theocult season, so…this is it.
Last season my sports post dealt with a myriad of topics, but the main point I attempted to make was that I believe that sports are meant to primarily be enjoyed, not competed. I’m not going to take the time to explore that specific statement in this post, however I do think that this is the difference in sports philosophy between Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and the reason why one of these men is so positive to the game and one is such a destructive influence on it.
There is a fairly lengthy article about Michael Jordan’s life leading up to his 50th birthday on ESPN this week that you can find here. The article does a good job of showing Jordan’s angst about growing old and his inability to move on and find “the next thing”. Michael Jordan was the ultimate competitor. If your measure of greatness can be found in fierceness of competition and winning then he has to be considered the greatest basketball player of all time. Period. End of discussion. However, I believe that the “greatness” of an athlete has more to do with positive, holistic impact on the game than it does with winning or the fierceness of the competitor. Allow me to explain.
Michael Jordan’s retirement has been an extremely mixed bag for basketball. Obviously, he’s inspired thousands of players across the face of the globe to “be like Mike”. But, ultimately, since literally no one can live up to that (or should) it is more of a curse than it is helpful to the players who are actually good enough to be compared to him.
Right before the All-Star game Jordan said that there are only four players in the NBA who would have been successful in “his era”. He listed Kobe, Lebron, Duncan, and Nowitzki. They’re all good players. None of them play for the team he owns. The Bobcats are notoriously bad. And they will be bad as long as they have an owner and leader as “respected” as Jordan telling them that they couldn’t have played with him. Can you imagine being a blue-collar, hardworking player on the Bobcats team and hearing your owner, Micheal Jordan, say such stupid things as this? Of coarse the Bobcats suck! The “greatest” player ever is their boss and tells them that they do. What a sad picture of leadership and illustration of destructive fathering. Jordan has fostered an orphan spirit in the game of basketball and especially his own team.
I’m a huge Jordan fan. I could watch documentaries, highlights, and movies about his career all the time and they wouldn’t get old. But he has made himself cancerous to the game of basketball. He is the most influential voice in the game and culture of basketball (and maybe all of American sports, because of what he represents), but he refuses to speak anything but failure into the players who have followed him. Until Michael Jordan has some serious changes of heart he is more destructive to the game than constructive. That is so freakin sad. He could be the best owner of all time (because he’s MICHAEL JORDAN!) if he was actually positive and encouraging to his players. Instead, he takes his rookies on in one-on-one games and embarrasses them. No wonder the Bobcats win so many games.
If Jordan cared about the game of basketball, it’s beauty as an art form, and enjoyed the game rather than his consuming obsession with personal gain and competition he would see that this is a pretty special era of the game. Instead, his head is so far up his own ass, replaying his own career highlights over and over, that he can’t see anything but himself. As a legend, an owner, and an icon he holds the key to making this era of the NBA very special. But, I doubt that will happen. Sad.
Jordan still competes every once in a while in a one-on-one game against some of his own players. He also obsesses constantly with finding flaws in currents star’s games. Instead of enjoying Lebron’s extremely special and unique way of playing, he watches for mistakes and then talks about them. I really would like to see Lebron and Jordan play one-on-one right now. Obviously, if they were both in their prime it would be a different story, but Jordan is so freakin arrogant that I wish that they would play now. Lebron wouldn’t give up a single point to him. He wouldn’t. I don’t care how loudly your objecting to this statement right now. If Lebron wanted to skunk Jordan, he could. Lebron is so fast and strong and Jordan is old. Jordan is amazing, but he’s old.
Magic Johnson, on the other hand, is the best thing that’s going for the NBA. Listen to the man talk. He is encouraging. He sees (and looks for) the strengths in current and emerging player’s games. He loves the game of basketball. To Magic, basketball is so much more than winning. He loves the game and cares for the people involved. I’m not saying that Magic is perfect, he’s made some major, and well published, mistakes along the way. But, he is the single most positive and constructive legendary voice for the game of basketball today.
Magic Johnson is the reason why the Dodgers will begin to win again. He is going to make a fantastic owner for that organization (and as an avid Cardinal fan I’m sad to admit it). Mark my words, under Johnson’s ownership, the Dodgers will win a world series within the next ten years. And, that actually has little to do with the amount of money he’ll spend (a LOT), and more to do with the culture that he will bring to the team. He will tell them they will succeed, that they are good players, that they have what it takes…and as a result they will win because Magic Freakin Johnson is breading a culture of winning and team strength.
Magic doesn’t talk about his own game the way Jordan does. Magic doesn’t obsess with “the glory days” (even though he humbly talks about them), he enjoys the game now. He engages the current “era”. And the awesome thing about this attitude, this posture, is that Magic is a top ten player ever! Maybe a top five player. If Magic wouldn’t have had to retire prematurely he would most likely be mentioned equally to Jordan.
When I see highlights of Magic he always seems like he was just a big kid, loving the game he was so good at. Jordan always seems angry, always striving to prove his greatness. It’s alright Jordan, you have officially proved your greatness. No one on earth questions whether or not you were/are great at basketball. So, please take a page out of Magic’s game and enjoy the beautiful game of basketball in your old age.
I’ve run out of words to count on. But, observe the difference between these two legends. One is raging destructively and selfishly against the game, while the other is building it. I would much rather be like Magic than Mike.