He hasn’t been an NBA player for over eight years now, but Michael Jordan, as an NBA owner, hall of fame player, some impossible success bar that can’t be reached and a logo on a new sneaker (another Air Jordans), is still one of the most recognizable and influential figures in the NBA and the wide world of sports.
The news of lines, unseen before in length, forming in front of shops, leading to fights, arrests, vandalism and sometimes worse always shock us. Be it black Friday sales, new books, a new Star Wars movie or, like now, the new Air Jodans.
But Jordan isn’t just a face on a marketing campaign or a name to sell merchandise with. His influence, coming from his unmatched ability and success with the Chicago Bulls during the 1990’s, on current events in the NBA still manages to surprise me.
Just comparing anyone to him is blasphemy. A lot of players are compared to the greats when they come out of college. There have been plenty of next Magic Johnson’s. Steve Smith, remember him? Anytime there’s a 6’8 player that can play as a point guard the comparisons begin. LeBron James is probably the closest to Magic, in certain aspects.
Every dominant college forward is immediately compared to Larry Bird. Tom Gugliotta, remember him? He even made the All-Star game once, but finished with a career average of 13 points per game. Not bad, but nothing close to legendary. Dirk Nowitzki will go down as the greatest European to play the game, but he’s no Larry Bird. Very different players.
And Jordan. Jerry Stackhouse was the next MJ back when. Grant Hill got that treatment, although before the injuries he was more of an improved Scottie Pippen. Harold Miner! Vince Carter, with the dunking and the North Carolina connection to help. LeBron James. And Kobe Bryant.
Bryant is also the only one in the last 15 years that people, very few, have been willing to put in comparisons with Jordan and actually say the Bryant is the greatest of all time. Forget about the numbers and whether Bryant will actually reach Jordan’s six NBA titles, something even Magic Johnson doesn’t have. For anyone who grew up watching NBA basketball during the 1990’s, the Jordan era, there will be no other, no one better.
Such is his hold on our opinion and basketball mind. No matter what anybody does, Jordan’s reign and ability to take over games and do the impossible again and again will always be unreachable in our minds. Something that can’t be repeated, and whatever we see that comes after, we’ll find ways to explain why it’s not as great as what Jordan did.
Nike’s marketing machine has to get some credit as well, but it’s more than that. The idea of Jordan, one of the ultimate symbols of success, an NBA player that was probably the most famous person in the world, more than presidents and rock stars and movie stars, at a certain point in time. Not a lot of basketball players can be considered as some of the greatest athletes ever. Jordan is, and always will be. At least in our minds.