Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Michael Jordan joins the Hall of Fame

“I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan,” said Larry Bird, after a young Michael Jordan, in only his second season of professional basketball, poured in a NBA playoff record 63 points against one of the greatest teams ever, the 1986 Boston Celtics.

It wouldn’t be the last time Michael Jeffrey Jordan’s exploits on the court would be described as otherworldly. Even an abbreviated list of his accomplishments alone are enough for some to qualify him as a basketball deity: Rookie of the Year, Five-time NBA MVP, Six-time NBA champion, Six-time NBA Finals MVP, Ten-time All-NBA First Team, Nine time NBA All-Defensive First Team, Defensive Player of the Year, 14-time NBA All-Star and Three-time NBA All-Star MVP. Yet, more than simply the sum of this list, there was always a feeling that Michael Jordan was just cut from a different type of cloth than any other athlete of his time –– a tapestry woven with a competitive fire that might as well have been forged in the depths of the sun, an athleticism that forced people to modify “jump” with “hang time” because “jump” just wouldn’t do justice to how high and how long Air Jordan would jump, and a turnaround, fade-away jumper that faded so far it made angles jealous and floated so long it made angels envious. His Airness was different.

It comes as no surprise then, that on the night of his Hall of Fame induction, Michael Jordan gave a speech that was unequivocally different, undeniably unconventional. Of course, with most things that are different in the sports world, the media resorted to protocol: outrage. Pioneer sports writers Jay Gold and Bidnam Lee discuss the speech and the subsequent reactions to it from the media:

Jay: There’s no question that Jordan strayed away from the typical acceptance speech template. He did allocate a few minutes to expressing his heartfelt gratitude to his family and Scottie Pippen. However, he spent the vast majority of his time calling out, or backhandedly thanking, all of those who, in his perception, doubted him or stoked his unfathomably large competitive fire in some other way. This exhausting list includes Leroy Smith, Dean Smith, Jeff Van Gundy and Bryon Russell. In spite of this, Jordan’s speech, in my view, was nowhere near as vindictive or as irredeemable as some have made it out to be.

Bidnam: It was Michael being Michael. What puzzles me the most about those expressing negative reactions to his speech is: where have these people been for the past two and a half decades? Anyone who knows anything about basketball and Michael Jordan knows that Michael Jordan’s greatest trait is his greatest flaw: hyper-competitiveness. That kind of trait doesn’t fade with age.

Jay: Agreed. Its content was undeniably egotistical, arguably petty and slightly out of place, especially amidst the humility and genuine gratefulness of his fellow inductees.   However, the fact is, Jordan was simply being himself, honestly striving to explain what drove him to be the player he ended up being.

Bidnam: This is a man who punched out Steve Kerr in practice and became upset when Pippen didn’t pass him the ball in a late-game situation, even though Pippen made the clutch shot anyway. Popular consensus during Jordan’s playing days on who the biggest trash talker was? Michael Jordan. Some people say that Jordan should have toned it down, minimized the ego and given a more respectable speech –– but you have to ask yourself, is that even possible for him?

Jay: I would have to answer that question in the negative.   There’s something slightly sad, although certainly nothing overly surprising, about Jordan’s seeming inability to let go, his refusal to fade away into post-basketball life satisfied with the astonishing things that he has accomplished and the irremovable imprint he has left on the game.

Bidnam: I feel like men and women who reach the furthest limits of human achievement, whether in basketball or elsewhere, can never truly separate themselves from what took them there, and their demise is that much greater because of the sheer height from which they fall.

Jay: We simply have to accept and appreciate Jordan for what he was and is: an athlete who transcended the world of sports and became something greater, an almost mythical pop cultural icon.   He was and remains, ingrained in the minds of a still awe stricken populace, truly extraordinary, in large part due to the competitive arrogance he put on display during a night that, in reality, was his.

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