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Monday, June 25, 2021

unlike mike
A spectre is haunting the National Basketball Association — the spectre of Michael Jordan. Years after his glory days with the Bulls, His Airness still casts an overbearing shadow over the league:

The denigration goes on and on. A few years ago, it was determined that the solution to the NBA’s image problem was an age limit. The rationale that frequently surfaces: If Michael Jordan played in college for three years, so can these high school punks.

At about the same time, the dress code was instituted. Guess why? Michael Jordan wore suits to games and at news conferences, and everybody loved the league then.

No sport ever dragged itself through this long a period of mourning for a departed star. Baseball didn’t give up and start mocking succeeding players after Babe Ruth (or Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays or Reggie Jackson) retired. Football didn’t curse an entire generation of players after Johnny Unitas (or Walter Payton or Joe Montana or Jerry Rice) finished playing.

And let me add in my own fave sport: After Wayne Gretzky retired, no one started trashing the next generation of hockey stars. (Just doing my part to keep the NHL in that “big four” fraternity…)

Was Jordan’s superstardom too much of a good thing? It’s curious that the transcendence of talent/personality in the NBA seemed to come to a screeching halt after Jordan retired from Chicago (let’s ignore the Washington Wizards years — most everyone else did). Jordan didn’t emerged from a vacuum — he was part of the lineage that started with Karim Abdul-Jabbar, followed with Dr. J and extended to the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era. Before that, the league was a dodgey affair, with perpetual image problems. By the time Jordan came along and started racking up championships, pro basketball had seemingly established itself as primetime, challenging even the NFL for sports popularity.

And, as David Steele points out, that’s still mostly true. The perception now is running ahead of the reality. But that sort of perception can be self-fulfilling, which is the danger. As long as Jordan continues to be identified as the unattainable personification of the ideal state of the NBA, the danger is real.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/25/2007 10:50:14 PM
Category: Basketball | Permalink |

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  1. How dare you blaspheme such an icon. His greatness was only overshadowed by how humble he was in the light of other upstarts in the league. Don’t hate the player who didn’t get body tattoos, have an entourage the size of Manhattan, or a flashy suit like some of the denegrates from the NFL. He’s a lasting icon because he was one of the last greats. Others can only aspire to the man who flew, changed the face of the shoe industry, and had everyone one chanting from coast to coast…” I want to be like Mike”. Long live his airness!

    Comment by KP — 06/26/2007 @ 11:10:45 PM

  2. After reading a very recent SP Times article I heard kids want to grow up to be like Robert Horry (who?). http://www.sptimes.com/2007/06/26/Sports/Ring_of_honor.shtml

    Comment by Hunk Oman — 06/27/2007 @ 05:05:33 PM

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