Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Michael Jordan: Air Jordan lands in Hall of Fame, greatest ever?


Michael “Air” Jordan has finally landed where he rightfully belongs and that’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. But during his acceptance speech Jordan suggested it may not be over just yet. He implied he may come back at age 50. Jordan stated, “But one day you might look and see me playing the game at 50. Oh don’t laugh. Never say never. Because limits like fears are often illusions.”

If anyone can play in the NBA at age 50 it may be Jordan.

There’s no need to go into Jordan’s numbers. Everyone knows about the six championships, scoring titles, dazzling dunks and last minute shots. Everyone knows about the shoes, endorsements and how we all wanted “to be like Mike.” Why regurgitate the obvious. Let’s examine the intangibles. I’ve always admired Jordan’s lazar-like focus. He put his mind on a task and didn’t stop until he achieved it. Even when he tried baseball after his first retirement many deemed it a failure.

How?

Jordan put himself out there, chased a dream to find out if he could achieve it or not. Failing is never mounting an effort. Failing is not dreaming and taking action to bring out your vision to fruition. Failing is lip service without action.

So, how did Jordan fail?

On the basketball court many have anointed Jordan as the greatest of all time. The argument can be made and very strongly. I tend to gravitate towards those players who changed the game. Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain changed the game. The league installed rules to curtail their dominance. The same can’t be said of MJ.

There’s Oscar Robertson, who was as complete a basketball player as they come. He simply did it all. Robertson averaged a triple-double for three consecutive years during the 1960’s. I’d surely put Magic Johnson in the conversation as well.

What Jordan did was take advantage of those pioneers who set the table for him, market himself like know one else and win. Jordan took the spectacular talents of Connie Hawkins, David Thompson, and Julius Erving and extended them to greater heights. He cemented his legacy in basketball by winning championships, living a fairly clean life, and playing it safe off the court. Jordan’s electrifying play over his career along with protection from the media helped us think Jordan was a super-human dream.

In short, I don’t think Jordan is the greatest of all time but perhaps he’s the most important basketball player of all time.

It was recently suggested by ESPN’s Rick Reilly that Jordan’s number 23 should be retired league wide. It’s a nice gesture but I can’t go there and here’s why.

This question makes me think of Jackie Robinson’s number 42 being retired league wide. Robinson was a warrior who truly transcended a sport and a nation. He deserved to have his number retired for his efforts on and off the field in breaking athletic and social barriers that existed because of racism. Robinson integrated Americas Pastime in 1947 that ultimately provided opportunities for African Americans in society and sports.

Robinson lived through, played, and faced racism on a daily basis. Robinson sacrificed of himself knowing full well future generations would benefit and he wouldn’t: much like Curt Flood, Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali did. Without question Jordan, along with everyone else in society and sports, stands on the shoulders of many.

Outside of basketball Jordan hasn’t shaped or even attempted to mold a legacy with respect to activism. He’s a dormant enigma when it comes to social issues, speaking out and taking stands against injustice. Jordan has rarely acknowledged those who came before him in society and sports that made it possible for him to do his thing.

Having said that it’s not warranted that Jordan have his jersey retired league wide.

Too much is given much is expected. Jordan has meticulously kept his greatness neatly tucked within the confines of basketball. He wouldn’t dare speak out and take stands because that could mean losing some of his grace, fame and money. With respect to activism Jordan bought into the “keep your mouth shut” attitude. He was a master of it. It was an unspoken rule in the media to never disrupt this icon’s world with controversial questions. Therefore we the fans were induced to think Jordan was free of error and didn’t engage in indiscretions of any sort.

In the realm of American sport Jordan deserves all the accolades bestowed upon him. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and he may be the best of all time. I enjoyed watching him as an athlete and loved the way his mind worked. But to not utilize that platform to make changes around this country, speak out on controversial issues and provide direction in society is a shame.

Everyone in life has a choice in terms of activism, to speak or not to speak. Its obvious Jordan did lot of talking on the court with his play. It would’ve been nice to have that talk extend beyond the basketball courts he once thoroughly dominated.

But, as Jordan stated about coming back at age 50, “never say never.” I won’t hold my on him coming back or speaking out.

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