How to Explain Michael Jordan's Brilliance to a Child

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterFebruary 17, 2013

Michael Jordan was very good at basketball. 

Granted, you might want to delve just a tad further when explaining exactly why we all love the man so great he has his own logo.  

You know Michael Jordan was amazing, and I know how remarkable his Airness was, but what about those poor little kids who have to grow up with lesser guards taking the floor as they savor the majesty of NBA games?

The greatest of all time turns 50 on Sunday, giving us the perfect opportunity to once again break down a legacy we will never again experience. 

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the many who will come after will undoubtedly carve out their own special niche, but they will never overshadow Jordan's greatness. 

In the simplest term, there will never be another like Mike. 

Of course, kids have incessant follow-up questions. So we delve into the easiest, most accessible way to grasp how phenomenal the 50-year-old really was. 


Pop Culture 

There is a reason kids sit down and spend obscene amounts of time sucking up every last drop of Yo Gabba Gabba! It's the same reason you plop down to watch an NBA game. Watching awesome unfold sure is fun. 

We will get to the specifics shortly, but just consider the huge block of pop culture Jordan carved out for himself. 

If Magic and Bird kept the NBA alive, Jordan took the NBA culture to a whole new level. 


First Commercial

Here is Jordan's first step toward commercial dominance, taking up center stage with Spike Lee who plays Mars Blackmon. 


Be Like Mike

If Jordan's prime had an anthem, it would be the famous chorus of, "I wanna be like Mike." Millions really did. 


Bird vs. Jordan

There were so many iconic commercials, but this was one of my favorites. It features legend, Larry Bird. 



Love for the high-flying maestro extended far beyond the adult world in this cartoon featuring the likenesses of Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson. 


Space Jam

The man beat the MonStars with one unbelievable dunk. Enough said. 

Sure, you could probably explain how Jordan has lucrative deals with companies like Gatorade and Hanes, far after he retired. His brand even generates $1 billion in revenue for Nike, via Forbes.

It might be easier to just show what impact he has had instead.


Talent and Accolades 

This is where things get a little tricky, because you could really lose a young one with the mere mention of numbers.

Sure, you could explain he has six titles and is third on the all-time points list, despite missing out on some seasons because of baseball and an early retirement he thought better of. 

You might even mention he won the MVP five times and his 30.1 points per game average is tied for best ever with Wilt Chamberlain. 

If you are going to regale a little one with a stat, the six championships he won should suffice, along with the six Finals MVP awards. 

When asked the follow-up question of "but why."

Well, the best there ever was kept a lot of great people from getting the most coveted of prizes. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone and John Stockton could very well have a ring if it weren't for the best. 

Even Clyde Drexler had to wait until Jordan was out of the league playing baseball to get his. 



It would be a tad boring to merely be the best at something. Sports fans are always looking for the personal side of the story. 

Jordan was as polarizing as he was prolific. 

He didn't want to just beat you, he wanted to annihilate your will. If you want to know how cutting he could be on the court, you only need to listen to Craig Ehlo who was happy to discuss the smack-talk king with Deadspin.  



Everyone loves a good mystery, and Jordan's career certainly offers a couple. He retired twice, robbing fans of conclusive answers to what more he could have done. 

Amid a remarkable career, Michael Jordan called it quits in 1993 to play baseball. It was an odd decision considering his exhaustive schedule and the pain suffered from losing his father the same year. 

If there is anyone who could come back to the game and not miss a beat, it was this guy. He returned to the NBA after giving his dream to play baseball a valiant, but unsuccessful effort.

He returned for the 1995-96 season and immediately notched three more NBA Championships.   



If we have to sum up why we still respect Jordan above all else, it would have to be his constant drive to win. 

Whether it was putting up 55 points against the Knicks or playing better than anyone on the floor as he suffered through the flu, Jordan put on his sneakers for one purpose: to win. 


Drops 63 on Celtics

Not only did Jordan score 63 points against the Boston Celtics, he did it against the tough 1986 squad during the stress of the playoffs.  


Famous Hand Switch

Every single highlight reel features this move, which is nearly as famous as his Jumpman logo pose. 


Flu Game

In his prime, Jordan was better than anyone around, even when he was sick with the flu. In the 1997 Finals, Jordan scored 38 points in a performance that brought him to the brink of exhaustion. 

If you are looking to sum things up for a kid who never saw Jordan play, you could probably start with "Michael Jordan was the best."

And you might conclude with, "there is no question about it."

Hit me up on Twitter for more NBA nonsense. 


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