Sports Opinion & Analysis

Happy 50th, MJ!

In NBA on February 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

On this Sunday, the entire news world is seemingly consumed and obsessed with the 50th birthday of Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever to live. Everywhere you turn, whether it’s ESPN, Bleacher Report, SBNation, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Yahoo, or even the Huffington Post, news outlets everywhere are taking a moment to recognize and celebrate the life of number 23.

For anyone who doesn't think Jordan could still play today, this picture was taken at last week's Charlotte Bobcats practice.

For anyone who doesn’t think Jordan could still play, this picture was taken at last week’s Charlotte Bobcats practice.

It’s a bit ridiculous, really. It’s President’s Day weekend, and MJ is getting more love than Washington, Lincoln and every other Commander-in-Chief combined. That’s a lot of sing-song for a guy who got paid to dribble a ball, and let’s face it; Jordan was not Washington or Lincoln. He wasn’t even a President, and it’s unfair to President’s Day (technically its weekend) to be overshadowed by MJ just turning the big five-oh.

If Jordan’s birthday is going to be compared to any holiday, it should be Christmas, not President’s Day.

That’s a joke, but the fact remains: Michael Jordan is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All-Time) of basketball. Perhaps and probably even sports in general. There’s no comparison. Sure, Bill Russell won more titles, and Julius Irving was Julius Irving, and Magic was Magic, and Kobe likes to pretend he’s better, and Lebron just wants to be left alone, but when it comes down to it, there was no other human on this planet who could do the things with a basketball that Jordan did. More importantly, there was never anyone on this planet who was able to present themselves doing anything, regardless of what it was, in the way Jordan did. And that’s his importance.

Only Jordan could make this outfit, or his Hanes commercial Hitler-mustache, look good.

Only Jordan could make this outfit, or his Hanes commercial Hitler-mustache, look good.

Of course there might be “better” painters in the world, or thinkers, or writers, but Picasso will always be Picasso. Einstein, Einstein. Shakespeare, Shakespeare. That’s just how it works. There are people who are good, even great at what they do, and then there are innovators. People who do things, and then become synonymous with that action. For Jordan, that action was sheer greatness.

By most accounts, he hasn’t been the greatest person. He allegedly wasn’t the greatest husband, or tipper, or gambler. Supposedly, he’s a huge jerk. The Charlotte Bobcats, the team he owns and operates, have been absolutely miserable under his entire tenure.

But none of that really matters. On the court and during his prime, Jordan did things people had never seen. He overcame adversities and flus, and made sure he would not be beaten. As the face of a franchise, he turned a backwoods, po-dunk operation into a worldwide, multi-billion dollar conglomerate (and that statement can be said for the following: Nike, Gatorade, Hanes, McDonald’s, the Chicago Bulls, and the National Basketball Association.) “Be Like Mike,” was not just a marketing campaign, but a mantra. A way to think about the world, and yourself in that world. Do your best. Aspire for greatness. Settle for nothing less.

You know this guy was chanting it to himself that entire day.

You know this guy was chanting it to himself that entire day.

“The Michael Jordan of ________” became the go-to phrase when comparing someone at the peak of their talents in their respected fields. Jordan was more than basketball player, he was a way of thought. A philosophy, and that’s why everyone is acknowledging him in the completely over-the-top and overblown fashion that they are (including, but not limited to, this article). That’s why ESPN, Bleacher Report, SBNation, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Yahoo, and even the Huffington Post have made such a big deal out of one person’s milestone. It’s because whatever that one person did, he did it with ease, yet an ease that was only possible because of an unwavering work ethic, and a fierce competitiveness spirit. For the millions of people who idolized him around the globe, he was physical manifestation of greatness, and the inner desire to achieve that greatness in themselves. To those of us in the USA, he was the embodiment of our conceptualized American Dream, and the values needed for those dreams.

And that’s why his birthday is completely overshadowing any President Day Weekend festivities. That’s why he has been the focus of the news lately. And it also probably doesn’t hurt that Jordan could probably dunk waaaaaaay better than Washington or Lincoln ever could.

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