Sports Opinion & Analysis

The NBA Should Retire Jordan’s 23

In NBA on July 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

In 2009, Lebron James announced he would change his number from 23 to 6, and suggested others in the NBA wearing 23 do the same, in order for the league to retire the number for Michael Jordan.

Lebron did change his number the following season (along with teams), and then the issue was never spoken of since. Why not? Why hasn’t the league retired 23? Major League Baseball retired Jackies Robinson’s 42, and the NHL retired the Great One’s 99.

Why are players in the NBA still allowed to sport 23, a number that is forever tied to one player and one player only?

This ceremony was not in Miami.

The long list of character flaws for Michael Jordan are well documented. He is a known womanizer and a chronic gambler. He can’t run the Charlotte Bobcats worth a damn. He’s not perfect, by any means, but then again neither is Wayne Gretzky. Well, at least neither is Wayne Gretzky’s wife. Everyone has faults removed from their respective playing field, is what I’m getting at.

Regardless, while Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional sports, and Wayne Gretzky brought hockey into the mainstream, Michael Jordan took the NBA, which at the time was a podunk operation, into a national, then international phenomenon. He became a cultural icon. A brand all in himself.

He became a state of mind (“Be like Mike”).

He became a reference point for greatness and perfection (“The Michael Jordan of _____”).

Jordan became larger than the sport of basketball, and as a consequence, elevated the sport as well. It became a community organizing event. An activity for everyone, tall or short, fast or slow, urban or rural, American, Argentinian, Spanish, Kenyan, anyone. Everyone. Basketball became a global passion. You could hate your neighbor, but you could still come together over your love for the sport. Your obsession with His Airness.

Due to the marketing genius of David Stern, Nike, and Jordan himself, basketball became a game for everyone. Every international player in the NBA is part of the legacy that is Jordan and his headlining role on the Dream Team. Jordan didn’t invent the game of basketball, he didn’t even reinvent it, but he did make it accessible for everyone. Everyone wanted to play. Everyone wanted to be like him.

Gravity defying.

There have arguably been better players throughout the NBA’s history . It could be said that maybe Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and/or Larry Bird were all better than Jordan during their primes. That might be true, it might not, but what is a fact is that none of them were as beloved as Jordan. None of them did more for the game and its appeal, than Jordan. None of them were Jordan.

Because of that, the league should take notice. The NBA should ensure every generation knows of Jordan’s significance to the game and league, by hanging his number from every team’s rafters. Shoot, Miami already did it in 2002, and like the rest of the league besides Chicago and Washington, he never played a day for them either. Miami got it right.


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