Michael Jordan: Did His Airness Belong In Baseball?

Steve JamesContributor IAugust 24, 2010

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There are competitors, and then there is Michael Jordan.

ESPN aired the premier of Ron Shelton's "Jordan Rides the Bus" in their acclaimed series "30 for 30" tonight, and Jordan fans across the nation saw him in a humble light that they were not exactly accustomed to.

Going from the greatest sports figure in history to a below average double-a baseball player is not an easy transition, but Jordan, being his driven self, did not show any signs of giving up as the season progressed, adding to his already iconic image.

That was over 15 years ago now, and the memory of Jordan's one year in baseball has faded away to a foggy dream.

To gain perspective on just how unimaginable Jordan's move was, imagine if Lebron really did go play for the Cleveland Browns (though I doubt the city would accept him back).

Imagine if Peyton Manning decided he was going to give the NHL a shot. What if Albert Pujols decided that home run titles were not on his agenda and fled for a chance to play in the NFL?

As ridiculous as those propositions sound, the same sort of shocking reaction was felt amongst the entire sports world that year that Jordan joined the Chicago White Sox.

Yet, what was even more shocking was the fact that Michael Jordan—hands down the greatest basketball player there was and that there ever will be—belonged in baseball just as much as any other minor leaguer.

Critics will cite his barely-above .200 batting average and his enormous amount of strikeouts. Maybe they will point you in the direction of a few of his embarrassing swings, which were admittedly pathetic.

The film successfully rebutted these points, showing how Jordan raised his average into the .250's in the Arizona Fall League, which has harder competition than the regular season league.

Ron Shelton also captured how Jordan's swing had vastly improved by the end of the year and pointed out his respectable 30 steals.

But Jordan belonged in baseball for reasons beyond his signs of improvement, beyond his fame, and beyond his overall performance.

Jordan belonged in baseball because he's not only the greatest basketball player of all time, but because he's also the greatest competitor that has possibly ever lived.

Shelton related how Jordan, from sunrise to sunset, participated in batting practice, always asking how he could improve. When asked if he was serious about playing baseball, Jordan answered with a stern "Dead (serious)."

And no one called him a liar.

Michael Jordan went from luxury planes to a sub-par bus because he believed that he could do anything. In an era where children were urged to "Be Like Mike", Michael showed everyone what it meant to be truly dedicated to perfection every time he stepped onto the field in a Birmingham Barons jersey.

Michael deserved his fair shot at baseball, and his brave move to a foreign sport is testament that the love of competition does exist: a notion that all current money-hungry athletes should examine.